Yesterday I spent a couple of hours on the banks of the Hudson with tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of my fellow New Yorkers awaiting the tall ships. The heavily promoted plan was for them to begin under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at 10 a.m. and head up the Hudson to the George Washington Bridge, then turn back down to the Battery, wrapping up the cruise around noon. I sat on a lovely bench at about 100th Street until 12:30–no boats. As I peered through the haze, I could see some big sails turning back south at what I guessed was around 72nd Street. The cops, all very friendly, got on their radios and learned nothing. They said it was a Coast Guard operation and no one would tell them what was happening.
It turns out the tall ships simply excluded the poor neighborhoods, mostly turning back around 59th Street. There were a lot of excuses, of course, none of which were even slightly persuasive to the folks waiting at Riverbank State Park at 140th Street who clearly saw this as meaning: no tall ships in black neighborhoods; no OpSail in Harlem. The African-Americans interviewed on the news looked deeply hurt by this. Some were angry. One man seemed on the brink of tears of frustration and rage: He’d brought his children and had to explain to them why the boats never came.
[Update, July 6: Today’s New York Times floats various theories about the ships’ failure to venture uptown. Click here to read a news story.]