About New York:
Published: June 5, 2009
The notion that the Grand Concourse could be turned into a long boulevard of talking trees — a tree museum, with trees connecting to oral guides of Bronx history — came to Katie Holten one day when she was traipsing along the boulevard near the Cross Bronx Expressway.
At the time, about two years ago, Ms. Holten was competing for an art commission to commemorate the centennial of the Concourse this year and racking her brain for a way to tell the story of the place and its people.
“The light bulb came on: If this is about the whole street, well, then the trees have to be part of it,” said Ms. Holten, 33. “The Concourse has always been tree-lined, even before it was paved.”
She has marked out 100 trees along the Concourse, which is about four and a half miles long. Each one will have a sign that gives a phone number and a code to listen to short recordings of people speaking about the Bronx, their lives and their work. The tree museum will open on June 21.
Tree No. 39, a honey locust at Marcy Place, will feature Jose Ortiz of the percussion group BombaYo. At another honey locust, No. 52, at 175th Street, Lurry Boyd, who grows peaches and strawberries in a community garden, will narrate. In Poe Park, a London plane tree (No. 75) will connect listeners to the story of the park, a former apple orchard that is now home to a cottage where Edgar Allan Poe lived. People often danced around the park’s bandstand at night, as Lloyd Ultan, the Bronx borough historian, tells it, including two sisters named Clooney. One of them was the singer Rosemary Clooney, aunt of the actor George Clooney.
Near Van Cortlandt Avenue at the northern end of the Concourse, the architect Daniel Libeskind will speak for No. 97, a hawthorn. When he was an immigrant teenager from Poland, the Concourse became the center of his life.“A street of extraordinary trees — a kind of boulevard that I only dreamt of because it reminded me of Europe,” Mr. Libeskind says on the recording. “Because we didn’t go to Manhattan or anywhere else, we used to spend all of our time in the Bronx. Our preferred mode of leisure was to walk up and down the Grand Concourse, looking at the beautiful architecture, the very beautiful brick buildings. Enjoying the open sky above the Bronx.” [read on...]