Stop the "Arborcidal Waterfalls:" The Latest on NYC Public Art

Waterfalls Left; Brooklyn Bridge; Dying Trees
Waterfalls Left; Brooklyn Bridge; Dying Trees

The Brooklyn Paper reports on the “NYC Waterfalls,” the Public Art project by Olafur Eliasson installed in four NYC river locations, which has become “arborcidal” (tree-killing) in Brooklyn Heights.

The Brooklyn Paper is always a bit over the top and yet it captures the essence of the situation. Arborcidal waterfalls…? Perfect. (The Villager has great reporting and articles but it’s, um, pret-ty serious. In Brooklyn, the weeklies have a bit of fun with it all. It’s also effective.) The problem is that the salt water from this nearby “public art” project is spraying its mist on the surrounding trees and causing them to decline. Residents and business owners are trying to get the project to end early – by Labor Day.

Sponsors The Public Art Fund turned to the NYC Parks Department for a solution (a “solution” which seems akin to the Parks Department watering the artificial turf to keep it from reaching scorching temperatures – at times, it can get twice as hot as regular grass – at 165 degrees instead of reconsidering the actual use of it). “Every morning, arborists from the Parks Department now rinse the trees and leaves along the Promenade and in the River Café’s garden with fresh water and flush salt from the soil,” the paper reports.

In looking into the Waterfalls a bit deeper, I experienced a revelation. Here, I was thinking Public Art was about Public. Art. until I read the press release and realized in Mayor Bloomberg’s New York, it, like everything else, is about the economy. The press release informs that The Economic Development Corporation (EDC), “estimates that the Waterfalls, funded with private support raised by the Public Art Fund, will contribute $55 million to the City’s economy.”

(How do you figure they figure that estimate out anyway?)

Isn’t the creativity and inspiration of people the main goal once in awhile? (Or… Not. At Washington Square Park, the aspects of the Park that inspire were slighted by the designer and NYC Parks Department in their redesign “plans.”)

I do appreciate the artist’s intention: “In developing The New York City Waterfalls, I have tried to work with today’s complex notion of public spaces,” said Eliasson. “… I hope to evoke experiences that are both individual and enhance a sense of collectivity.”

However, upon viewing from the F train, I agree with the Brooklyn Paper assessment: “in reality, the project’s scaffolding and weak water streams look more like a giant Erector Set from the borough’s shores.”

So… What do you think? What will win out? Saving trees or boosting (allegedly) the economy?

Currently, the project is set to run until October 13th.

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