Meadowlands

The swamp between New Jersey and New York City.
Meadowlands

A selection of images and text from the recent book by Joshua Lutz.

The Meadowlands is that giant swath of swamp and space that separates New Jersey from New York City, or, put another way, from New York City and the rest of the United States of America.

The Meadowlands is a landscape that is, no matter where you are within it, more panorama than single place; it is widescreen, 3-D, and IMAX all rolled into one, regardless of whether you are seeing it in its clear blue sky version or in its smokestack-fueled gray. Exactly how big the Meadowlands is depends on what you consider to be the Meadowlands.

Are you thinking about the parts that look like swamp, with reeds and herons and mud? Are you talking about the areas that the state government deems Meadowlands, which is that area that is part swamp and part what might be called developable landscape, whatever developable means? Are you talking about the places that are Meadowlands-esque, for lack of a more precise phrase: those business that are beat up, factories that are deteriorating, plants that produce things that are one giant note, such as electricity, or gravel, or smoke and fumes from burnt trash?

Are you talking about the places that seem not quite like any place, places that, if you get lost and run into them accidentally, somehow seem a little lost themselves: parking lots without cars, bus stops without bus passengers, a castle filled with knights and maidens that are all out of time and—officially, anyway—without a king? Are you thinking of those roads that seem a lot like the opposite of the New Jersey Turnpike, the Turnpike being the Meadowlands’ Amazon River: little beat-up, one-lane, barely paved and sometimes even dirt paths that, as opposed to the sixteen or so lanes of superhighway that separate the airport in Newark from the giant Swedish home furnishings outlet in Elizabeth?

Those roads that wind up taking you to an old broken-down pier, a place, if you are driving or even walking, where you are forced to look down off of a crumbling shoreline and see the cold, fast-flowing Hackensack River as it wells up, just before melding with the Passaic River in Newark Bay and then becoming New York Harbor and then the Atlantic Ocean.