Central Park, that is. The installation of the trees and foliage has been an enormous task and I have enjoyed watching it come to life.
The real key to the success of such a project isn’t what has happened the last few days, but the months of preparation and planning. We’ve talked about that before, but now I got to observe the results and the immediate effort to complete the work. The first thing I saw was the staging of the planting on the quayside. Very impressive. Rack after rack (just under 400 racks) of plants of all types and sizes. And an incredible indexing system that identifies each box and where it goes.
Onboard, Central Park was a beehive of activity. This beautiful area was now completely covered with protective wrappings which was a little sad since even without plants, Central Park had looked so nice. And people were everywhere. Ambius – the environmental specialist responsible for organizing and implementing all the landscaping – had brought in people from their offices all over the country. They had an army of people all wearing a light green Ambius shirt pushing, pulling, guiding and directing. There were also a large number of ship’s crew wearing grey work suits wheeling in rack after rack filled with plants. Although we have talked about the massive job of loading the plants on the ship, I quickly realized that an even bigger task was putting all those plants in the right spaces.
Leading the Ambius team were Denise Eichmann and Mark Hawry who had spent months preparing for this day. When I arrived, Mark was explaining the detailed indexing system to a large team of workers and Denise was coordinating the additional materiel that was needed to finish off the beds. Both were juggling a walkie-talkie and two phones but they seemed very calm as the storm of people swarmed around them.
And the swarm was impressive. Clearly, this was a group of people who knew what they were doing. I noticed one worker who was wearing obviously new, steel-toed shoes and my first thought was that Mark and Denise had done a good job of laying down the law concerning safety. Later on we were introduced and I realized that the rookie laborer was her boss’ boss. But I was even more impressed the next night when the park looked clean and the workers dirty. The sheer volume of plants that had to be organized, transported and planted was amazing. And so was the transformation of the park. It was striking how hard they all worked and how nicely the entire garden came to life. The Ambius team certainly demonstrated why they are such leaders in their field.
Scott Wilson of Wilson Butler (aka our “guru”) was very focused on the process of fitting the prefabricated planters. Scott was the person we went to about two years ago when we decided we needed to change the design of the area from a garden to a park. He, his partner Scott Butler and Dennis Dale of Waterfield Design Group in cooperation with our own team conceived of Central Park as it is today. They took an excellent concept and transformed it into something extraordinary. Scott has been the person we often go to for our most intractable problems and that is how he earned the sobriquet “guru”.
But, early Sunday morning Scott was a little worried. He had always expected that some of the planters wouldn’t fit and had a team of metalworkers standing by. However, the rate of mis-fits was running at 10% and that was higher than planned. It was slowing down an installation process which had already lost 2 days of cushion to an Atlantic storm. Fortunately, the later boxes fit better and by Monday, the average had fallen to less than 5%, just below their pain tolerance.
By Monday afternoon, most of the planting had been completed and the crane was now being used to offload the trash rather than onload the plants. Over 5,000 lbs of trash, mostly the protective coverings. Central Park was being cleaned up and the plants trimmed and primped. It was still a mess, but at least one could see what was intended and it is wonderful. How they made such a beauty out of all that stuff is beyond me, but I loved it.
Dennis Dale looked like a proud Papa. He has been working on this baby for 3 years and was determined that every tree, every plant, every leaf was just right. He was very detailed in his choices of plants, each for its own special reason, and now I saw why. Somehow, his weird combinations of disparate colors, shapes and textures came together in a wonderfully pleasing manner. He was even prepared for contingencies. When the US Agriculture Department objected to 3 species of plants, because of their potential vulnerability to disease, he had a contingency plan ready. That is the sort of thing that really separates the men (and women) from the boys (and girls).
As we looked on the nearly finished planting and were discussing how the plants would grow and spread, I was reminded of my own experiences with landscaping. When I first moved to London, I asked our landscaper how long it would take for the garden to grow in. He assured me that within five years, it would become reasonably established and within 10 years it would be a mature and “proper” garden. When I moved to Miami, I asked our landscaper the same question. He thought for a moment and said “Thursday”.
Well, “third time’s the charm” and I asked the same question today. Now the answer was “only a month or so”. ¿Quien Sabe?
My biggest surprise? It was how beautiful the Park is at night. I knew the daytime would be great, but nighttime is often more of a challenge. Wow, was I wrong. The evening in Central Park is a dream. No matter the hour or how tired I am, I have ended every night strolling through Central Park.