Living in this region, it’s easy to be spoiled and take for granted our proximity to such heaven-sent amenities as the Hudson River. For those of us not active in the environmental movement, it’s all too easy, as well, to lose sight of the harsh reality that this monumental natural resource itself has been spoiled by such unnatural contaminants as PCBs. Fortunately, the damage done to the Hudson is redeemable, and that vital mission is the life’s work of such organizations as the non-profit organization Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.

I received a crash course on the importance of Clearwater’s decades-long efforts through my recent handling of publicity for the dedication of a public sculpture called “North Star” at Charles Point in Peekskill. The piece was created by longtime Yorktown resident Al Landzberg.

The veteran sculptor of 45 years, whose “Big Sky” metal sculpture can be seen at Jack DeVito Veterans Memorial Field in Yorktown Heights, created the 24-foot-tall, handcrafted tribute to sailing and the Hudson River from an aluminum sailboat mast his son-in-law, Chuck Newman (also of Yorktown), salvaged from a derelict vessel at the Peekskill Yacht Club.

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It had been on loan to the city of Yonkers for about a year when Mr. Newman, an insurance broker based in Peekskill, initiated talks with various parties to relocate the art to a newly developed waterfront recreation area at Charles Point. Mr. Landzberg was inspired to dedicate his work of art to Clearwater, the juggernaut created in 1969 by folk singer and activist Pete Seeger that helped spur the environmental movement.

During the dedication ceremony at Charles Point, Mr. Landzberg offered erudite remarks that I found remarkable in their passion and historical sweep. He noted that in the 1960s, Con Edison sought to build a pump storage power plant that would have removed part of Storm King Mountain in the Hudson Highlands. Clearwater helped mobilize what the sculptor called “the huge opposition” to Con Ed that ultimately helped prevent the plant from being built. “Scenic Hudson and Clearwater at that time,” he told the gathering at the dedication ceremony, “created what we now know as the environmental movement, which has spread throughout the world.”

He continued, “I grew to appreciate the Hudson a great deal during that time. There have been decades of effort to clean up the Hudson, which is much cleaner now than it ever was. I figured this is the time to recognize the history. The resiliency in this region and the people who live in it are bringing back what is once again a beautiful river.” He added that environmental activists such as Clearwater “have changed the shoreline in Peekskill from an industrial area to a highly recreational place. The city of Peekskill has done a beautiful job redeveloping its waterfront.”

The sculpture stands sentry-like at the entrance to Factoria at Charles Point, a new multi-purpose entertainment and dining destination operated by Peekskill restaurateurs Louis Lanza and John Sharp in partnership with Captain Lawrence founder Scott Vaccaro. The land on which the sculpture sits was donated by its owner, Peekskill’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA). Shaped like a tree reaching skyward, the majestic sculpture symbolizes the history and craftsmanship of wooden sailboat construction. 

The artist further explained the symbolism of his sculpture: “Sailors historically used the North Star as a reference point for navigation. Sailing is incredibly important to this whole region, and I wanted to honor those sailing ships. The European explorers who came to this country saw vast pine forests and realized they could find the materials they needed to build huge ships. Masts more than 100 feet tall were made out of a single straight tree, the hulls were made of timber. This sculpture tries to capture that moment when trees were so important in building those ships. The stainless-steel eagle at the top on a windy day will move around—a kinetic sculpture—and it honors this area where eagles come in the winter time. The total concept of the sculpture is geared to the river and our history.”

You can see the “North Star” sculpture at the Factoria at Charles Point at 5 John Walsh Blvd., Peekskill, NY 10566. A full video of the ceremony, produced by Mike Miner of MJM Television and Video, with complete remarks by Landzberg, Newman, city officials and members of Clearwater, can be found on YouTube by searching for “North Star Sculpture Dedication.”

To learn more about Landzberg’s art, visit sculpture-landzbergstudio.com. For information on Clearwater, visit Clearwater.org.

Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914-275-6887.