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A New York Minute (14)

6 Feb

February 6, 2012

New York Minute!

I don’t know where you are reading this but it is cold in New York. We haven’t had any snow this winter and that’s a shame since the city looks great with a thin coating of snow. Of course now that I’ve jinxed I’m sure a major snow storm is hitting the city right now. Sorry New York, my bad.

New York has a long history with the winter and before you ask yourself what kind of a stupid statement that is, bear in mind that New York is where the last Ice Age ended. Yep, the last glacier died here. Various glaciers have covered the area of Central Park in the past, with the most recent being the Wisconsin glacier which receded about 12,000 years ago

I will now quote liberally from The New York Times. Hmm, “New York Times” and “liberal” in the same sentence. Never heard that before. Anyway, and I quote…

The New York region was once covered by a vast crystalline shield of frozen water, known as the Laurentide ice sheet. It carved the terrain of the metropolitan area, and as it melted, dumped so much transported rock, gravel, sand and sediment that it created parts of Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey – including the barrier islands at the coast. It also deposited such notable landforms as Battle Hill, in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

You might remember Battle Hill from my recent Gangsters, Goodfellas, and Parakeets New York Minute. Now back to The Times.

“The rocks of New York City are a climate archive,” Dr. Schaefer of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University said. Most New Yorkers are unaware “that they are living in the middle of a glacial event park,” he said, adding: “All they need do is open their eyes. By looking into the past, we can learn about the sensitivity of glaciers as climate indicators.”

In Central Park, for example, much of the visible bedrock was shaped by ice, and unmodified glacial features abound.

One of the most impressive glacial remnants in Central Park is Umpire Rock (so-called thanks to its proximity south of the Heckscher Ballfields), to the east of West 62nd Street, by the pétanque court.


The feature is a rarity in that its deep grooves reveal a carved channel and glacial fissures that suggest “possible evidence of subglacial streams,” Dr. Schaefer said.

“As you see the deep grooves, you can almost imagine these big boulders gouging out the bedrock,” said Neil Calvanese, vice president for operations of the Central Park Conservancy, which manages the park under a contract with the city.

Central Park really is an amazing place to spend some time. One of my favorite movie depictions of the park is from The Out-Of-Towners, the hysterical Jack Lemmon- Shelly Duvall movie from 1970. In one part the couple, having no where else to go, spend the night in the park where they are menaced by a man in a cape and Jack Lemmon nearly gets killed by some baseball players who misinterpreted it when he took a young boy behind a bush so he could look in his pants. Trust me, it’s not what you think.

This begs the question, does anyone live in Central Park?

Yes they do.

Again, from the New York Times:

New York City Census Tract No. 143, better known as Central Park, was officially home to 25 residents in 2010. Not only were there enough of them to stage a football game, but their ranks had also apparently increased: a stunning 39 percent, in fact, over the previous decade, dwarfing the 2.1 percent growth in the city’s overall population.

Turns out Central Park is not the city’s only open space with a purported population. According to the census data,, 56 people claimed Flushing Meadows-Corona Park as their home, and 5 — apparently alive enough to do so — said they lived in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. (For historical perspective, Central Park listed a whopping 63 people in the 1990 census, then dropped to 18 in 2000 before climbing to 25, defying all demographic trends.)

Of the Central Park phenomenon, Lester A. Farthing, an official in the Census Bureau’s New York regional office, wrote in an e-mail, “we are not certain, but this could be either one of two possibilities”: The self-described park residents were homeless, or they were parks department employees living in some sort of “caretaker facility.”

The latter was flatly rejected by Vickie Karp, a parks department spokeswoman. There were no workers, not a single one, living in the park, she insisted. And the former, as it happens, is trickier to sort out than it sounds.

A few homeless people, Mr. Farthing said, could have picked up census forms at “Be Counted” sites the bureau set up at businesses and community centers around the city, then mailed them in as an honest act of residential pride. It was also possible, he noted, that some of the 25 had been counted by census enumerators on their occasional forays to sites in the park where the homeless are known to stay.

And that’s your New York Minute.

An audio version of this legend recently appeared in the amazing FlashPulp website. Check them out for awesomeness and goodies!

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