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July 2019

A Short Ocean Voyage to an Immortal Symbol from a Revived Park

Photographs by Matt Stokes Photography

When our group of scholars stepped off the elevators at the offices of the Battery Conservancy at One Wall Street, we were greeted by Warrie Price, its president and founder, who directed us first to the staff lounge for a quick look out its 17th-floor windows.  Below us spread the park and its 195,000 square feet of gardens, then New York Harbor, busy with boats of all sizes, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Soon we would be aboard one of those boats, on the way to the Statue, then returning to the park and a ride on its magical Seaglass Carousel.

But first we gathered in a conference room, where Ms. Price warmly welcomed us and, with the help of dramatic slides, described the evolution of the Battery since 1994.  What was a neglected dustbowl with broken benches has become a vibrant park full of meticulously maintained green space and gardens, as well as beautifully designed seating and the one-acre Battery Urban Farm. The harborside destination draws 15 million visitors a year.

Recalling that when she first visited New York from her native San Antonio at an age not much different from that of her listeners, she said that she had immediately fallen in love with the city. The road to permanent residence here led through the University of Texas, the Foreign Service and Harvard’s School of Government, as well as marriage to a New Yorker. A lesson that she hoped to leave with her listeners, she said, was that “One person – with others – can have impact.”  

She went on to describe how the Battery’s renaissance had taken place, a joint effort of government and the Downtown community. Among the guiding principles were that the Battery’s mission was “to inspire government to be an innovating force,” an emphasis on outstanding design on all components of the park, and a devotion to the idea of authenticity to the area’s historic roots.  

Soon we were conducted into the park and the boarding area for the boat to Liberty Island, where there was time for photographs and exploration, especially of the recently opened – and blessedly cool – museum, a thought-provoking look both at the statue’s place as a powerful international symbol of liberty, and of the meaning of immigration in the nation’s life.  An unforgettable part of the visit was the statue’s original torch, standing 16 feet tall.   

There was one final stop after the ferry returned us to land: the Seaglass Carousel, where we were the Battery’s guests for a magical ride inside giant fish and astride sea horses, whirling and moving up and down in ways that brought an undersea feeling to a green corner of the harborfront.

One thing remained to be done: final signatures and brief notes of appreciation on a card that had been designed to thank Ms. Price for a decade of visits by Scholarship Plus to the Battery. The first page of the card was the figure “10,” made up of small photographs of Scholarship Plus groups going back to the original year, a number of them taken at the Battery. 

Photographs by Matt Stokes Photography

Warrie Price, founder and president of the Battery Conservancy, shows a picture of last year's Scholarship Plus scholars — this was her tenth year presenting to our program.

 

Beating the heat with a ride on the ferry, scholars Qadeer and Maureen lead the way to the gangplank.

 

This group spans three years of college (firstyears, sophomore and junior) and has been getting to know each other better this summer through our summer programming and internships with our partner, New York Public Radio.

 

Standing before history: Lady Liberty's original torch.

 

 

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