Randalls Island Park Alliance

Archive for the ‘Meet The Crew’ Category

Bridges over Randall’s Island

In Meet The Crew, New Ideas and Expansions on April 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm

IMG_0246By James C.

My name is James Carroll and I’m a new gardener here at Randall’s Island. I’ve been learning about horticulture at the New York Botanical Gardens and the Queens Botanical Gardens and I’m very excited to be applying my gardening skills on this interesting island.

New York City is known for it’s famous bridges, the Brooklyn Bridge perhaps being the most iconic. But few are familiar with the architectural importance of the bridges over Randall’s Island. The Hell Gate Bridge and the Triborough Bridge are both unique representations of architectural styles and periods in New York History.

The violent waterway known as Hell Gate today  was originally named Hellegat by the Dutch, which could mean “hell’s hole”. Like Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx, where the creek nearby was named “Devil’s Spout” or Spuitende Duivel, the Dutch commonly named waterways in the low country in this manner.Today the converging currents of the East River are still rapid, despite being cleared of obstacles in the 19th century due to hundreds of shipwrecks.

The Bridge that spans Hell Gate was originally named, less excitingly, the New York Connecting Railroad Bridge. Initiated in 1912 and completed in 1916, the bridge linked the New York and Pennsylvania Railroad with the New England and New Haven railroad lines. Architect Gustav Lindenthal’s original design of the bridge’s approach ramps included a low steel lattice structure but was soon changed after concerns that the island’s asylum inmates would climb it to escape.

When completed it was the world’s longest steel arch bridge until the opening of the Bayonne Bridge in 1931. The Hell Gate Bridge was the source of inspiration for the Sydney Harbour Bridge which is 60% larger.

Today it serves both rail and passenger traffic and trains can be seen frequently passing over our gardens and urban farm. A recently completed bike path is located under the arches of the bridge allowing bicyclist to enjoy the grandeur of the bridge up close. Long term plans are currently under way to connect the Randall’s Island path to the South Bronx bikeway in Starlight Park.


While the Hell Gate Bridge could be argued to be the original tri borough bridge, it wasn’t until 1936 when Robert moses completed the present Triboro Bridge which provides vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The main bridge that connects Ward’s Island and Astoria is a fine example of art deco themes common in the 1930’s. The stepped columns recede in a ziggurat style similar to other projects from the 1930’s such as Rockefeller Center.

One such example of Art Deco architecture can be seen on Randall’s Island at the Triboro Bridge Authority Building which was Robert Moses’ headquarters during his reign over New York City as traffic czar and “master builder.”

The original cost of the Triboro Bridge was $60 million, greater than the Hoover Damn and one of the largest public works during the Great Depression.

The bridge was renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge in 2008 but is still commonly referred to as the Triboro.

This photo, taken in 1936 upon the completion of the Triboro Bridge, shows an unidentified building under the Hell Gate Bridge where our Urban Farm is  currently located. Many of the trees surrounding it have been cut down for sports fields, but many have been replanted with help from the MillionTreesNYC program.


Panorama of the Ward’s Island seen from Astoria Park, 2009

More photos and information on the Triboro Bridge at Forgotten NY here


Let’s Get Glam GLAM

In Meet The Crew, New Ideas and Expansions, Randall's Island on March 24, 2013 at 3:00 pm

dianne for blogBy Diane B.

Greetings! This is Diane, one of the 2013 Horticulture seasonal employees of Randall’s Island Park Alliance. To state a few facts about myself, I recently moved here from Delaware. Last year I graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in Plant science, with a concentration in plant propagation.

As a new and upcoming horticulturist, I was looking for a place that would expand my knowledge of what is available and also provide a lot of hands on learning experience, and that’s when I found Randall’s Island. This area seemed like the perfect place for learning about new opportunities and challenges. We’ve only been here a week and already we’re starting our first challenge of the season, planning decorative flower arrangements for the Gala.

The Gala was a charity benefit for Randall’s Island Park Alliance.  It  was held on Tuesday, March 12 at the American Natural History Museum.  Being the horticulture crew, we were given the task to providing a tropical island atmosphere using  live tropical plants for the event rooms.

The first room that needed to be setup was the cocktail area room, which was held in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda. The pictures above are the two flower arrangements that we made and placed throughout the cocktail room.



In the picture on the right, we have pincushion yellow gold (Leaucospermum) this flower is a native to the South African region where it is normally seen as an evergreen shrub and blooms between the months of November to April. The flower on the right is a King Protea (Protea cynaroides) mostly admired for its giant flower heads; it is also a South African native. These flowers are amazing  to use for flower arrangements, because of its long vase life. It is easily dried;  so you can keep it around for an even longer.

Finally, the last and final part of the project was the sixty two center pieces for the dinner tables. The centerpieces consisted of two to three inch tall wheat grass with eight poppy flowers scattered throughout the tray. The idea was to show the illusion of the flowers growing straight out of the wheat grass.

poppy centerpiece

These plants were found to be the most challenging of the entire project.  We arranged the poppies two days in advance. The poppy flower petals and stems are very fragile. Each flower had to be carefully placed and packaged within the transportation truck so they would not break during the trip to the dining tables. Luckily, we had plenty of left over poppies and any damaged stems we quickly replaced before dinner was served.

All in all I would say this project was a great success. We tackled everything with a Macgyver-esque ability and achieved our goal of providing fresh looking exotic plants for the enjoyment of the Gala patrons.

Meet Our Horticulture Crew Member: Kaity Cheng

In Meet The Crew, What's in Bloom on May 22, 2012 at 8:07 pm

By Kaity Cheng

Gardening can be tedious, frustrating, and exhausting. A co-worker might say something that triggers me, and I might feel heat rising in my chest, then realize that this is an opportunity to note my ingrained reactions, to withhold blame and to inquire from within, and to learn to use my voice skillfully. I’m often itchy and wonder if I’m allergic to nature. Some battles seem hopeless; the mugwort will keep coming, the Waterfront Garden will never be entirely free of weeds. I do wonder from time to time, if I’m challenging myself enough, or if these might be the first steps of a career path that is beginning to cut through the dense foliage of my easily discouraged mind.

I discuss the difficulties only to show the many dimensions of my job. I am very grateful to be working here.

At the end of a day of gardening, my body feels tired, well-used, and happy. Tired faces are the norm at any workplace, especially in the morning, and I often show up at Randall’s Island rattled from the monotony of highways and traffic and the fight to stay awake. We are given our assignments for the day; we unlatch the tool shed to collect shovels, rakes, buckets — whatever we need. We begin to make small changes to the landscape, removing weeds, pruning shrubs, dead-heading perennials, raking and cleaning the soil surface, and our morning work is often done in companionable silence.

Nearly every day, I arrive at a moment where I realize the fatigue has subsided. Pain and discomfort are easy to notice, but the disappearance of pain and discomfort tends to get less recognition. When I garden, I notice that fatigue, which I thought could only be cured with a nap, can vanish in an instant. These brief moments of awareness are moments of grace. They sweep in as though from out of nowhere, but I suspect there is something about the repetition of our schedule, the early rising, the camaraderie of our crew, the small kindnesses we offer each other, and the fresh air, that make these moments more readily accessible.

I’m not a scholar, nor am I eager to amass botanical knowledge, but this landscape is becoming familiar, and there is a subtle joy to recognizing flowers and trees. There is much to learn, and I often feel lazy for not following up on things and not studying on my own time. And yet, the island, the work of planting trees, establishing new gardens, connecting with volunteers, all these experiences seep into and enrich me. I’m also learning a lot from our crew, which is diverse across age, ethnicity, personality, and life experience.

I hope I will make gardening a lifelong practice. I never stop learning, and I learn through every sense door. My eyes, ears, nose, skin, heart, mind, all absorb different aspects. Throughout a day of working with my hands in the dirt, the whole day breathes through me – wind, sun, clouds, rain, I am breathed by the day. Just as I snip off the dead parts of plants, uproot the weeds, rake smooth the soil surface, there is something caring for me, the work itself gives back to me more than I can offer with my two clumsy hands. Gardening connects me to who I really am. Through gardening I re-discover how amazing it feels to be healthy, human, to belong on this earth and to be connected to something much bigger than my own concerns.

Meet Our Horticulture Crew Member: Jeff Terry

In Meet The Crew on May 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm

By Jeff Terry

I was asked to write a blog, not just any blog.  Something that expresses my everyday view of Randall’s Island.  Ok…so where to begin, Monday through Sunday I find myself on this island.  Either watering, weed wacking or hedge trimming or the million other things one does in my field.

See, I’m part of a horticulture crew and on a daily basis I find each day a new reason to laugh. My teammates are unique.  To each task, they bring humor and skill.  I am lucky to have so many, who inspire me and are willing to go the distance.

My world is changing with each person I encounter, but all for the good, really!

Well, by now you’ve discovered I’m no writer.  Yet each blog you read will tell you something about the person, who writes it.

What will mine tell you?