Wood from Madison Square Park art installation donated to Bronx-based youth empowerment organization

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Below a hill at Hunts Point, the Bronx River sparkles, providing an escape from the city. Herons and egrets hover above the water and the air is cool. A 20-foot sailboat plies the calm course of the river. But this sailboat was made by children.

Shake the boat is a Bronx-based non-profit organization that empowers local youth by teaching them how to build and sail wooden boats. The organization received enough lumber on Friday to build five more boats from an uninstallation art installation in Manhattan.

Ghost forest, Maya Lin’s public art installation that illuminated the effects of climate change on the world’s forests, was removed from Madison Square Park on November 19 after six months on display. The wood was crushed on site by Tri-Lox, a Brooklyn-based carpentry and workshop focused on sustainability. The 50-foot-tall 49 Atlantic white cedars will no longer stand in the park’s oval lawn, but slide into the waters of the Bronx River. Because Rocking the Boat builds its boats from solid wood and not plywood, it can be difficult to find the right materials.

Madison Square Park Conservancy has partnered with Rocking the Boat and Tri-Lox to reuse trees, amplifying the environmental and social impact of Ghost Forest. All of the cedars used in Ghost Forest were originally from a restoration project in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, where climate change phenomena have caused vast areas of forest decline.

Instillation of Ghost Forest art by Maya Lin before uninstallation. Photo courtesy of Andy Romer.
Wood milled by Tri-Lox on Friday. Photo courtesy of Joaquin Cotten.

“It was really important to the artist that we did this,” said Tom Reidy, deputy director of finance and special projects at the Madison Square Park Conservancy. It was also important for the Madison Square Park Conservancy. The park has launched a sustainability division to examine park practices from a sustainability perspective and to educate the community on sustainability initiatives. Donating the wood from Ghost Forest allows Conservancy to practice sustainability.

Rocking the Boat is based at Hunts Point on the Bronx River and offers three tracks for its students, including boat building, environmental science, and sailing. Beyond rowing and sailing, the group uses boats to conduct environmental research and restoration on the Bronx River. Staff social workers also work with participants throughout their high school years and beyond. The organization offers public programs for school groups and a free community rowing and sailing program. The goal of the program is to show children the opportunities they have and to help them recognize their potential, said Adam Green, founder and executive director of Rocking the Boat.

Andy Aguilar is a high school student and a sailor with Rocking the Boat. She said that using the wood from the art installation to now build boats is powerful and “gives the wood a new lease of life.”

Sebastian Ramos is an apprentice in the boat building program. He said being a part of Rocking the Boat had pushed him out of his comfort zone and helped him grow as a person. He is excited to use the wood on the next boat building project.

Jaymi Lopez, a boat building apprentice, said she was grateful that people are trying to help Earth by reusing wood and that people care where the wood goes.

The trees in Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest are ready to be pruned for Rocking the Boat. Photo courtesy of Joaquin Cotten.
Ghost Forest’s art installation before its uninstallation on Friday. Photo courtesy of Maya Lin Studio.

Tri-Lox is also working on building a tree reuse and salvage system that can be used for timber and incorporating that timber into the New York Cityscape, said Alexander Bender, co-founder. by Tri-Lox.

“We saw too many trees in New York City going through the chipper, and we (Tri-Lox) thought it was time to create a more sustainable circular system that gives New York trees a second life,” said said Bender. “I think being able to salvage the trees from the ghost forest, being an exhibition focused on the fragile state of our ecosystem is really the perfect opportunity to both respond to the deeply moving work of Maya Lin and also expand our mission. Tri-Lox has to recover trees, so there really is this great synergy.

The smaller sections of the trees that cannot be shredded will be made into mulch to use in the park, and the conservation arborist will use smaller pieces to make tree accessories.

“100% of the tree is recycled in one way or another. We’re really excited that it all came together, ”said Reidy. “It was a really fantastic show and it’s a sweet and fitting conclusion to the show.”

Rocking the Boat’s debut

Green was volunteering at a high school in East Harlem in 1994 when the teacher he volunteered with said he dreamed of building a boat with his students but could never do it alone.

Green grew up on the 11th floor of an apartment in New York City, but has always loved being outside and creating things with his hands. When the teacher asked if Green would help turn his dream into reality, Green decided to “give it a go,” he said. The couple worked alongside seventh and eighth graders.

Eight months later, the first boat was floating in the pool in the basement of the school.

Green immediately noticed the connection the seventh and eighth graders made to learning when they realized it had a practical and relevant purpose and that they could use what they had learned in class to create a boat. from a pile of wood.

“They were learning things and actually using them,” Green said. Previously, many students did not know how to read a ruler, but through the process of building the boat, they learned how to do it. The interrelationships that formed during the process of building the boat were also transformative, he said.

“It was magical,” Green said. Adding: “There was just that feeling of connection and a kind of connection that we all had because we were doing this really special thing.”

Adam Green speaks with members of Rocking the Boat and others who gathered in Madison Square Park on Friday to witness the wood crushing. Photo courtesy of Joaquin Cotten.

What started with eight children in a small classroom in Harlem has grown into an organization serving around 4,000 people.

“I was really excited to connect kids with nature and understand how nature affects them and how it affects it,” Green said.

Historically, the Bronx community has had very little access to parks and green spaces. The inhabitants of the region have the highest levels of asthma in New York because of the air quality.

Rocking the Boat gives children the opportunity to be in nature and have extraordinary experiences that give them the opportunity to discover skills, talents and possibilities in themselves, in their lives and in their own communities. , then use those skills to step out into the world and be successful, Green said.

“This (the Bronx River) is an incredibly rich resource that improves the quality of life, not only for animals, but for the people of the Bronx,” Green said.

The group recently received funding to start growing algae at the mouth of the Bronx River for use in community gardens as fertilizer. The group also built boats for other organizations, such as a whaler for the Mystic Seaport Museum and a steamboat for the Stevens Institute of Technology.

About Irene J. O'Donnell

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