Painting 9

Watercolor of the view from Siren Slope by Noel Hefele

I painted at “Siren Slope” – a small, overlooked hillside on the edge of Albany Crescent, next to a fire station. This is an official NYC Park, .28 acres in size, right near entrance and exit ramps for the Deegan. As a community member put it – “I didn’t know that spot had a name other than ‘that thing by the Deegan”

The park was founded in 1950.  It has a 3.6 star rating out of 5 reviews on google.
“Okay not great”

The most popular time according to google appears to be Friday morning about 7am – and it’s “not that busy”  It seems as if it is mostly used as a dog park. There is a memorial to a 9/11 fallen firefighter and a fire hydrant painted like the USA flag.

I set up under 2 well formed pin oak trees.  An oak was recently cut down and part of the trunk was convieniently available to use as a seat.

The first time I walked past this small triangle of green, I did not know it was a public park and thought it was a part of the fire station. I wonder how broadly known the name “Siren Slope” is, and what the effect of naming land has on it.

I’ve noticed I’ve been struggling with what to call the land where we hope to daylight Tibbetts brook.

-“Location of Tibbetts Brook in the future” – awkward.
– Former Putnam rail right of way – could be confused with current Putnam bike trail.

The best consensus I have seen in researching this question is “Southern extension of the Putnam right of way” — This is pretty good, but there is no mention of the brook.

 “Tibbetts Brook Extension” lays a claim to the land that invites the water in.

 The Local Lenape people called it “Moshulu” – meaning “smooth stones” or “small stones.” That name was given the nearby Moshulu parkway.

 Can Moshulu Brook Extension work?  We already have Moshulu Ave, Moshulu Parkway the highway, Moshulu Parkway the green space.

 Something about using names from people forcibly removed from this land does not sit well with me, but also why keep the Tibbetts name, from George Tippetts, land owner and likely owner of enslaved people?

 As spaces change use, names provide consistency but the need for new names also arises. What names do we choose? What stories do they tell?

Maybe we don’t call it a brook anymore but a bridge – going through the “kingsbridge” near the now buried lost site of one of the first toll bridges in America.  
  “Moshulu Water Bridge”

 ———————-
 “Let the water take control”

 Wise advice from local retired art-teacher Jerry when I ran into him again today. He stopped to talk for about a half an hour, giving countless pointers with an infectious enthusiasm. I told him I bring a spray bottle and a sponge with me when I go out, and it has improved my painting, thanks to his advice. He seemed to be aware he was potentially overloading me, but was happy to give more tips. I told him I liked “Let the water take control” – especially because it applies to the Daylighting Tibbetts Project.
 He was on his way back from the dentist.

 T and his dog, a black lab “Hector,” came by to talk, offering advice to go to the next bridge and you “can see everything from there, the water, everything, it’s beautiful.” I told him I will go there for my next painting and asked if you can see the rail right of way. He said yes and that he remembered hitching free rides for free to Yonkers on the back of the trains.
 He told me that his mother was an artist and she did everything, sold work up in riverdale, all kinds of oils, pastels, watercolors. He said “she was real good” with a kind of smile that indicated it really made him happy. I asked if he has any of her work still and unfortunately he told me “the in-laws took everything.” I told him that I hoped some of her work would come back to him someday soon.

Painting in this location overlaps with T’s walk, unexpectedly bringing to mind fond memories of his mother and her creativity during his walk and thoughts are always tied to the land they occur.

 It’s a small generative moment that originates from this emergent “Moshulu Water Bridge” strip of land or whatever we are going to call it.

 T returned a bit later with his dog again for a walk.

By Noel Hefele

Noel Hefele is an artist living in the Bronx