Fort Slocum's Final Remnant is Gone, But What Will Happen to Davids Island?
My newspaper had always covered it uncritically, treating it as just another development of merely local interest. But when they assigned me to start covering the environment, I looked at it differently, as a project that would at the very least change the landscape in that part of the Sound and might well have bigger impacts in the Sound itself. My coverage coincided with a rise in opposition to the project in New Rochelle's south end and in neighboring villages. It's impossible to say what was more influential, and the truth is both fed on each other: skeptical newspaper coverage fed citizens to oppose the project, and informed, active citizens encouraged me to keep examining the issue. Eventually, in 1991, I think, that particular proposal died.
New Rochelle still owns Davids Island. Westchester County has offered to buy it for $6.5 million, to turn it into a park. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been dismantling and demolishing the remnants of Fort Slocum, including the 100-foot-tall water that was the island's most visible landmark.
The water tower finally came down yesterday, and the last structure to remain. The Journal News covered it and, time passing the way it does and memories being short, managed to not mention the development controversy which, looking back, was after all a short blip in time. But I agree with my friend Barbara Davis, the New Rochelle City Historian, who was among those in the late 1980s who did not want to see condos built on the island:
"There needs to be a great deal of public support," she said. "In the short term, what I hope is the great minds of Westchester will start thinking carefully about the future of the island for the best purposes of the public good. For it to be a viable ecosystem, it will take a tremendous amount of work."
Labels: Davids Island