St. Nicholas Park in Harlem is one of few spots on the island of Manhattan where you can stand on terraces of rock untouched since men with surveyor's tools stood on them to deliver the bad news, back in the last century but one: Gentlemen, here is a substance we cannot move. So they built around, below and above, leaving this uneven pleat of ground, rocks surfaced between the trees like whales in strips of sun, stunned to find themselves landlocked among buildings, illuminated at night by lamp posts. The old maples and oaks, roots plumbing the hill as humans could not, whisper of what's below: more rock—more rock—more rock.
Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press from Floating City by Anne Pierson Wiese. Copyright © 2007 by Anne Pierson Wiese.