More than sixty locals, friends, and guests gathered on Saturday, April 28th for the third annual John James Audubon birthday party, an event sponsored by the Riverside Oval Association and held in the Charles and Murray Gordon Memorial Park (a.k.a. “the Oval”) in Riverside Drive at the foot of 156th Street, land that was once part of John James Audubon’s farm in northern Manhattan. The afternoon was sunny, but the breezes were brisk and temperatures hovering in the upper 50s, so the celebrants adjourned to the community room at the Grinnell for cake, speeches, and some remarks about the neighborhood’s history. Before leaving the Oval, however, everyone admired the new fence and footing installed this year with assistance from City Councilman Robert Jackson as well as the beautiful new landscaping, designed by local resident Christina Read and planted under her guidance.
Re-designed and landscaped “Riverside Oval” looking north
At the Grinnell, Dr. Harvey Flad, a geographer and professor emeritus from Vassar College, spoke about living in the neighborhood and working at the American Geographical Society in the 1960s and your blogger, Matthew Spady, local historian and webmaster of AudubonParkNY.com, spoke about the historical antecedents of Riverside Drive and the reason two separate Riverside Drives run between 155th and 165th Streets.
ROA co-chairs Steve Simon and Vivian Ducat, who had organized the event, split duties for the afternoon; Steve was Master of Ceremonies and led a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” while Vivian Ducat cut and served the birthday cake to the guests, among them Assemblyman Denny Farrell.
A birthday cake celebrating John James Audubon’s 227th birthday
The party also served as a “water fund-raiser” for the Riverside Oval Association. Currently, the gardeners must haul water across the street in large containers to keep the new plantings flourishing. Although a water source runs beneath the Oval, connecting to it will be an expensive proposition; however, in the meantime, the ROA can connect to a nearby hydrant, if it can raise the necessary $2,500 for a permit and equipment. After donations at the party, the ROA was more than half way to its goal, close enough to begin obtaining the necessary permit to use the hydrant.
Anyone wishing to make a tax-deductible contribution to the water effort should write a check to “Washington Heights-Inwood Coalition” and mail it to the Riverside Oval Association, 790 Riverside Drive, Apt. #12A, New York, NY 10032.
Plans for the fourth annual John James Audubon birthday party are already underway, so mark April 27, 2013 on your calendars now! The next event in the Oval will be gardening on “It’s My Park Day,” May 19th.