Central New Jersey Rail Road Terminal, Jersey City

Voilà, the gem of Liberty State Park!


The Central New Jersey Rail Road terminal (1889), also known as Communipaw Terminal is one of the most beautiful buildings of New York Harbor. Twenty tracks and four ferry slips provided the terminal with streams of cargo, supplies, passengers, workers. The palatial waiting room has a gabled ceiling three stories high and the most grand view of Upper Bay and the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines; it now houses Liberty State Park’s Visitor Center. Statue of Liberty ferries leave from the slips.

However, the treasure lies behind this elegantly proportioned and well-maintained edifice:


the old tracks are overrun by a jungle of native flora, Nature come to reclaim her domain. Twenty tracks of young trees, tall grasses and weeds flourish, the dark old steel structures are lost amid the riotous green, the sidewalk cracks are colored in by little grasses and sprouts. A beautiful light filters evenly through the open trestles. It is dramatic in full sun, and magical on grey days:

(if it weren’t foggy, you’d have seen lower manhattan when the camera turned west at 0:25, looking out the building)

Nature’s indefatigable force is inspiring. Nothing we make–with all our might!–is going to last. No better proof exists than in the photographs of shipbreaking captured by Edward Burtynsky and Andrew Bell. Or, in the quieter photographs our own Tugster, closer to home, in the Kill van Kull.

What will last? Nature. Of which we can still claim to be a part, despite all our efforts.

“Nature is not a place to visit, it is home…” Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild

9 Responses

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  1. tugster said, on 2009/08/14 at 03:53

    lovely and profound . . .bowsprite!! your images go from a symmetical grand RR station house–which would NOT seem at all out of place in many northern european cities (the place of origin of many folks who passed through its arches over a century ago on the way west and toward the future)–to an aquarelle of biology overcoming steel–like the maggots in yer sturgeon foto of some months back–to a video that shows torrential downpour forcing some folks to seek shelter in the RR terminal. lovely! and good text punctuated by . . . my friend gary snyder. i am in awe! and you inspire me to match you snyder for snyder . . . soon.

  2. Roger Cubicciotti said, on 2009/08/14 at 05:13

    What a wonderful inspiration to return to the beauty and wisdom of nature! I did get a bit of a flavor of “too bad things are the way they are.” And, alas, things ARE the way they are for a reason. Perhaps you might re-tone a bit to shine the light on the positive aspects of the lessons we’re learning, that the “imperfections of the past” are a special and loving signal from the Universe that Nature can be, nay IS, our teacher. We live in an abundant universe, and it is through Nature in ALL its forms, even those we create either mindfully or carelessly, that we learn to choose wisely and responsible in this moment.

  3. seabart said, on 2009/08/14 at 05:18

    So I guess you’re back on your hometurf then?

    I have visited and admired this building when I was in NYC a couple of years ago…loved it then and your picture does it justice beautifully! Great Stuff.

  4. Celeste Maia said, on 2009/08/14 at 06:36

    I have been inside this beautiful building, and you captured its spirit so well.
    Your entries are always so inspiring.

  5. O Docker said, on 2009/08/14 at 10:40

    Couldn’t help but think of this:

    Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:

    What place is this?
    Where are we now?
    I am the grass.
    Let me work.

    – Carl Sandburg

  6. Mage Bailey said, on 2009/08/16 at 11:18

    Oh, and in the rain the magic multiplies. G and I watched that video twice and delighted in your drawing. Thank you for showing us this little bit of hidden New York.

  7. Play Boats « tugster: a waterblog said, on 2009/08/16 at 17:26

    […] . . . 2Mage Bailey on Week’s Shipping SamplerMage Bailey on Sixth Boro DuskCentral New Jersey Rail Road Terminal, Jersey City « Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook on Circum Staten Island 2Daniel Meeter on A Horn Blows in BrooklynPhilip Martin on A Horn […]

  8. Pat said, on 2009/08/17 at 13:46

    The sad paradox is that the creations humans intend to endure often don’t, but things that we don’t want to last sometimes do, to nature’s detriment — such as bits of styrofoam.

  9. Vagabonde said, on 2009/08/17 at 17:41

    This looks like a wonderful building to explore. Your post is very interesting and quite deep.

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