Things Change — Here’s Proof and Picture #4

Ice floated in the harbor and the twin towers were under construction.

Ice floated in the harbor and the twin towers were under construction. (Photo: Lifelongnewyorker)

freedom tower

The Freedom Tower today. (Photo credit: waltermonkey)

I bought my first camera — a 35mm Konica rangefinder — in the summer of 1970, between my freshman and sophomore years of high school.  It cost about $75 — pretty much what I earned in one week in my first summer job as a filing clerk in an office on 17 Battery Place.

About a year later, a friend gave me an SLR, an Edixa Prismaflex.  A German camera that posed no threat to Leica, still, it served me well for 15 years.

This photo was taken in winter 1971, from the deck of the Staten Island ferry. Ice floes in the harbor testify to the coldness of that winter; every winter seemed frigid in those days.  The buildings under construction are the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Construction workers had been out in full force during the summer I worked in lower Manhattan.  In those days, they joined guys working on the exchanges to line the streets at lunch hour, eat their hero sandwiches and leer and make lewd comments directed at the women passing by. Really.

That summer, the WTC site was a giant hole through which ran the Hudson Tubes (now the PATH trains),  supported by a combination of trusses and hangars that didn’t look all that secure. In my memory, the tunnel was more or less suspended in midair.  From the 23rd-story windows in the office, meanwhile, I could look out and watch trucks dump fill from the WTC excavation to create Battery Park City out of a sectioned-off arm of the Hudson River.

Today, of course, another tower is rising from the WTC site.  And recently the river tried to reclaim Battery Park City during Hurricane Sandy.  And when were ice floes last seen in the harbor, I wonder?


4 Responses

  1. I remember lots of ice floes when I worked in the WTC and on Water Street between 1991 and 1995. It was so much fun to sit in the lower level of the ferry, hearing those suckers clunking against the hull, thinking about the Titanic. :-p

    I worked in the Trade Center in December 1992 when we had that Nor’easter. There were floes then, but the ferries didn’t run because the waves were so high, the captains couldn’t get the boats into their slips. I stood in the terminal for an hour, then walked home in the storm. Fun times.

  2. How well I remember the cat calls from the construction workers as we tried to walk the streets of the financial district back then. It was such an unpleasant part of our everyday work life! As for the WTC and the Tubes…I sometimes took the Tubes with a friend who lived in Bayonne and I can still recall the sound of the thousands of commuter feet trudging down the temporary wooden stairs that took you below the construction site into the train station. Its just amazing how much has changed, and continues to in lower Manhattan.

    • Dynamo — re: the catcalls. What’s amazing to me is how that was just the way things were. My sisters had worked there before me, and my mother worked in the financial district, as you know, and yet none of them had ever mentioned this particular phenomenon to me. I’m not sure I ever walked those streets with my mother, and yet I know I heard her voice in my head: “Just ignore them.”

  3. You’re right, we just ignored them as Mom would have advised. I too remember ice flows in the 1970s and saw a few as we returned from VT on Saturday up near Albany. We had 12+ inches of snow and so I’m sure you enjoyed the weather in AL.

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