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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2021

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APRIL 2021 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: New York

48. (Houston Street and LaGuardia Place)

An artist convinces the City of New York to permanently set aside a 200-by-45-foot parcel of land on the southern edge of Greenwich Village so that he can re-create the habitat of Manhattan Island as it was before the first European colonialists arrived. Using only native species, the artist distributes his plantings to correspond to the three stages of forest growth from grasses to saplings to grown trees. He fills the fenced-in lot with oak, white ash, American elm, birch, beech, red cedar, black cherry, as well as sassafras, sweetgum, tulip trees, arrowwood and dogwood shrubs, bindweed and catbrier vines, violets, beaked hazelnut shrubs, wildflowers, witch hazel and a groundcover of mugwort, Virginia creeper, aster, pokeweed, and milkweed. People who seem to know what they are talking about tell him that all the trees he planted will die, that no such species have grown in New York for over a century. He has to guarantee to city authorities that if his native species do not survive he will replace them with the approved exotic trees that the city typically plants along sidewalks. More than 40 years later, the native trees and plants he re-introduced are thriving, though many passersby, failing to notice a sign reading “Time Landscape,” see only an overgrown, unkempt patch of land.

(Alan Sonfist)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2021

All Issues