Arts & Entertainment

Yorktown Photographer Captures Iconic Hudson River Images

A collection of David Rocco’s photographs is on display at the Division Street Grill in Peekskill. Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
Yorktown photographer David Rocco captured last week’s Tappan Zee Bridge crane collapse. Credits: David Rocco

YORKTOWN, N.Y. - David Rocco has made a career out of photographing prominent spots along the Hudson River.

In 2014, the Yorktown resident’s fortunate timing provided him with the opportunity to capture the arrival of one of the world’s largest cranes, which was brought to the site where the new Tappan Zee Bridge is being built. Most recently, he captured the crane’s collapse on July 19.

“It’s nothing short of a miracle that nobody got hurt or killed,” he said.

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Rocco, who has been photographing the construction of the bridge for the last three years, likes to focus his photography on historical structures, bridges and lighthouses along the Hudson River. He has been published in magazines and newspapers throughout the state as well as in several galleries. Currently, about 65 photos are on display in the Division Street Grill in Peekskill.

After working for the New York Housing Authority for 18 years, Rocco retired in 2002. He began volunteering for community projects such as the Walkway over the Hudson, where he would document its construction. He has documented many iconic structures along the river, paying particular attention to the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

“This is a once in a lifetime project,” he said.

He’s captured significant moments of the projects he’s been involved with, such as a crowd shot from the opening day of the Walkway over the Hudson, as well as the arrival of the gigantic crane brought over from the West Coast to assist with the Tappan Zee Bridge.

The crowd shot he took, which shows the bridge packed with thousands of people, would not be possible today, as the turnout, about 20,000 people, was surprising and the bridge can’t legally hold a group that size, he said.

“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” he said, “because you have to be in the right place at the right time. You either miss [the shot] or you get it.”

In shooting the arrival of the crane, which he said is one of three in the world, luck was on his side because that photo has been featured in several publications.

Other works of Rocco’s include photos of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Photos from that series have been showcased in the Arts Westchester Gallery in White Plains and in an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. Fifteen of his photos have also been entered into New York City’s public records.

Sticking out among the photographs of bridges, lighthouses and homes is a framed, close-up portrait of the late folk singer Pete Seeger, who Rocco befriended during his time working on the Walkway over the Hudson project. From 2002 to 2010, Rocco’s involvement in the project ranged from volunteer to grant writer to board of directors member.

“We never really thought it would ever happen,” he said. “We just needed to get someone to believe in us.”

After Seeger and other stakeholders got involved, the project took off.

Other projects that Rocco has dedicated his time to include the Mount Beacon Fire Tower Restoration Project, the Beacon Sloop Club’s “Woody Guthrie” sailing vessel, Bannerman Castle Trust, Friends of FDR State Park, the Yorktown Community Dog Park, Friends of the Yorktown Depot, and Westchester County’s SPCA in Briarcliff Manor.

The research that was conducted for the Mount Beacon Fire Tower resulted in some historically significant findings that expanded Rocco’s resume to include an historical event commemoration.

“Starting in January 2015, I had the unique opportunity to be one of the founding members of the Friends of the Mount Beacon Eight organization,” he said. “The goal of this organization is to bring public awareness of the eight Navy veterans who were killed in two separate plane crashes on Mount Beacon. I took part in a ceremony on Nov. 14, 2015, to honor these eight forgotten heroes. Two perished on Sept. 14, 1935, and the other six died on Nov. 11, 1945.”

Among those killed in the crashes was Dixie Kiefer, a prominent figure of World War II, Rocco said. The goal is to raise enough money to get a memorial plaque installed along the trail on the mountain.

“It’s been an amazing trip,” he said. “Because of all of this exposure I’m getting calls from people who served under Kiefer and family members of the pilot. It’s like peeling an onion. You get deeper and deeper.”

In addition to his cultural and environmental initiatives, Rocco is also a frequent blood donor and has donated a total of almost 22 gallons.

Rocco’s work will be on display at the Division Grill for a short time and then will be transferred to the Cuneen-Hackett Arts Center in Poughkeepsie in September.

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