Published

“The View From Newport” newspaper column appeared every other Thursday for about two years in the Waterfront Journal, a publication of The Jersey Journal.

New Yorker searches for natural beauty in Newport

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Barbara Saunders is a rare bird in Newport: She lives on the upper west side of Manhattan but works here for JPMorgan Chase Bank.

That split life is not unusual. What makes her stand out is that she actually uses some of her free time away from work to enjoy what Newport has to offer and to use walks along the waterfront and through pocket parks to further her longtime interest in birding.

“Good weather, bad weather, unless business is too pressing, I take a lunchtimenewport-birder-marina break,” she tells me as we stroll along the waterfront. Periodically, various birds fly by, halting our gait and diverting our conversation. Grackles, house sparrows, robins, hermit thrushes, house finches, Canada geese and gadwalls get our full attention as they gracefully cross our path – or as we cross theirs.

A member of the Audubon Society and the natural history Linnaean Society of New York, Saunders explains her vision of the natural order found even here in this highly stylized urban setting: “Nature is such an integral part of our lives. Here, you are a part of the world. If you keep your eyes open, things just pop out at you. It comes from being in touch with nature.”

While Saunders, a senior technical officer in her company’s human resources division, enjoys her walks, she does see deficiencies.

“The environment is relatively sterile for wildlife,” she says. “Just in the past year, I’ve noticed use of pesticides, which is really bad for the birds. A resident was walking his dog on the grass one day and was told by the man spraying that he should keep the dog off the lawn for a time. I thought, what about the birds?”

newport-birder-in-borderWe walk by the open field with the new high-rise condominium development going up near the Holland Tunnel ventilation tower on Newport Parkway. Suddenly, Saunders reminisces, “That wild field has been great for birds and other animals. A couple of years ago, there was a bunny near here.”                                                                                                                                                                                  

Saunders came to work at Newport with the initial move into the community of JPMorgan Chase back in June 2002. After growing up in western New York State, she came to Manhattan in the late 1970s and considers Central Park her “home base.”

She has explored a bit beyond Newport, walking around the Hamilton Park area.

“I have tried going in towards the main part of Downtown,” she says. “But I didn’t see much that was interesting for wildlife.”

Large and open spaces like Liberty State Park are just too far from work, given her time constraints. Still, she goes on to express the hope that public transportation will continue to improve and open up the possibility for quick and easy jaunts into the surrounding areas of Jersey City.

In particular, she would like to visit 101 Hudson St. to see the peregrine falcons that have nested there for years. The State of New Jersey provides a Web site and live camera feed for Internet viewing of that nesting spot high atop the skyscraper: www.njfishandwildlife.com/peregrinecam/.

In closing our walk-and-talk session as she heads back toward her place of work, Saunders tells me she would like to see more open spaces preserved and less attention to pruning and mowing – providing a more natural setting for people and wildlife.

She recalls something an urban planner instilled in her some years back.

“Green space is integral to the people who work and play in a community – much more so than most of us even realize,” she says. “We need something where people can sit and relax – be at peace. Our work days are so hectic. Going from meeting to meeting, it’s good to feel the wind and sun – or even the rain – on your face.”

© 2005  The Jersey Journal

© 2005 NJ.com

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Note: The following feature article appeared in the April, 1981 edition of Alabama Arts, a magazine of the Alabama State Council on the Arts and Humanities.

 

B.J.’s Deli:  Where Decatur Meets Art

 In a city where the only college serves commuters and lies across a river in another county, B.J.’s Deli provides a touch of culture for the city center.  Nestled in downtown Decatur, its high-backed caned chairs, tiffany lighting and stained glass décor provide an ambient atmosphere for the artist – budding or blooming.

 

An early morning visit to B.J.’s may give a writer a chance to relax, sip coffee or herbal tea, and think.

 

However, by mid-morning, business picks up and so does the tempo.  The Front Porch String Band or Southbound Glory – native Alabama groups – may go on the sound system.  A fellow artist may drop-in looking for coffee and camaraderie.  This is the time great discussions are born.  The subject may be art or otherwise, but the outcome will be the same.  Opinions won’t change, but the differing viewpoints will play King-of-the-Hill in the old high ceiling room.

 

Lunchtime shifts the mood again.  By 11:30, the music becomes more restrained, more attuned to the hour and to the new clientele.  Within 15 minutes, the tables may become filled with businessmen and women.

 

The vegetarian dishes or the sprouts may be too unusual for most of this crowd, but the pocked bread, “imported” from Birmingham, is just enough out of the ordinary to be tempting. 

 

These noontime customers seem to enjoy the artwork at B.J.’s, too.  Posters ranging from “The Cubist Epoch” to “Dolly” adorn the upper potion of the walls.  Underneath those posters may be found wall displays of paintings and photographs offered for sale by local artists.  A special shelf is devoted to books written by Decatur artists.

 

On a larger scale of introducing art to the community, Deli owner Bill Jones provides weekend evening entertainment.  A custom-built stage, lighting and sound system allow events to be performed which range from plays, to poetry readings, to weekend stints by area singing artists.  In addition to providing exposure, the opportunity to perform before an audience allows neophyte artists the chance to grow and “polish up their act,” says Jones.

 

Groups like to meet at B.J.’s.  The North Alabama chapter of MENSA, the society for intellectually gifted individuals – convenes at Huntsville, but one day a month the Decatur members gather at B.J.’s to have lunch and such.  During these meetings, a circular wooden table designed to accommodate four people may expand to hold fifteen or more men and women.  The number depends upon what members show up and what friends are invited to squeeze in around the table.

 

Bill Jones opened his deli with the intention of providing a haven for artists; money was not his prime motivator.  He says, “I probably made more the last six months of my previous job than I have made the three years I’ve been in business for myself.”  Jones keeps re-investing his profit in the business.  “I hope to eventually buy the building I’m in now,” he says.  “Id like to do some work on it…add some shops upstairs, maybe.”  Jones has a vision of an expanded house or haven to provide a sense of community for artists in Decatur.

 

B.J.’s Deli attempts to provide food for the body and the soul.  Blending the two is a constant struggle, says Jones.  But B.J.’s Deli accomplishes an additional feat, for it is here also – in this small delicatessen – that business meets art.  And it is an appropriate meeting place, because the need for experiencing and expressing art is as deep-seated and perhaps as old as the need for food.  The opportunity to experience art in the common context of “time-out for lunch” provides the promise of a richer life for all Decatur residents.

 

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