Some Other Sign that People Do Not Totally Regret Life

Sean Cole is a poet and he knows what you think of that.

He is also a radio producer. One night, drunk and stumbling around the Hudson River with his friend Malissa O’Donnell, he discovered a monument — two of them actually — to two of his poetry heroes. Apropos of the name of this show, the tribute wasn’t very obvious. In fact, he and Malissa nearly walked right past it. Still, embedded in the architecture of a 25 year old plaza were the words of Walt Whitman and Frank O’Hara. And weirdly, Sean had he’d been reciting from O’Hara’s Lunch Poems just minutes before.

Thus began Sean’s quest to talk to the people whose idea this was — forging a largely unloved art form into a permanent fixture of the cultural landscape. Along the way he talks with urban landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg, former Battery Park official Richard Kahan and none other than Frank O’Hara’s younger sister, Maureen O’Hara.

Sean Cole and Malissa O’Donnell both work for WNYC’s Radiolab. And Sean is also a 99-percentilist from way back.

Battery Park City — World Financial Center Plaza by Wally Gobetz


  1. Caitlyn

    Hi Roman,
    What is the piano song around 10 minutes in? I am wracking my brain for the name but I just can’t remember it!

  2. Usman

    I remember when I first came across this fence around 1997 or 1998, when I had been shipped out to live in a residential hotel in Battery Park City at NYU’s behest – a blessing in disguise. It was during a late night of solitary wandering, and it made me feel like part of the city, filled with love for the world.

    It was maybe a block or two from the World Trade Center; I am so glad that this fence, and these words, survived to inspire what must be thousands of others by now.

  3. cwodtke

    I have my heart in my pocket; it is Lunch Poems by Fran O’Hara. He died the day I was born.

  4. After discovering 99% Invisible last year, I am working my way through listening to all of the past episodes, and this one is so beautiful! Thank you Roman and all of your colleagues!

  5. Heard this today in Spokane on 90.3 FM(I can only get it in my car). I have been a lover of Whitman since forever and came right home and looked up Frank O’Hara. Wow!

    1. Teddi Litman

      It’s adjacent to the North Cove Marina. (I think, or very close to there.) The official address of the North Cove Marina is 250 Vesey St.

  6. Teddi Litman

    I clicked the area on the map around where I figured the fence might be and kept getting “Brookfield Place” but I didn’t know what that was so I picked the North Cove Marina. Then I looked up “Brookfield Place” and read it’s the new name of the World Financial Center. (They renamed it I guess when the new owner, a company called Brookfield Office Properties, finished their renovation. It’s been a few years since I’ve been to NY.) Anyway, “Brookfield Place” is the “World Trade Center’s” next door neighbor. It’s a combination mall and office complex. Cesar Pelli was the main architect of the whole World Financial Center not just the plaza. Anyway, I do recall parts of the World Financial Center did sustain damage on 9/11 but it was restored and later I guess renovated and expanded.

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