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Phillip Lopate describes the shape of Manhattan Island as‘a luxury liner, permanently docked, going nowhere’. This feeling of being tethered to the land, unable to get to sea, was a feature of New York life for much of the twentieth century. New York was an island without a coast. The West Side piers that once welcomed the Lusitania spent most of the twentieth century crumbling or behind barbed wire, while the East Side’s coves and points were cut off from pedestrians by six lanes of the Robert Moses-designed Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive. It wasn’t much easier to reach the shores of Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, either: with a few exceptions, they were largely reserved for municipal or industrial use, and easiest to see from the Staten Island Ferry (en route to the borough with the most beaches). Now, slowly, the city is reclaiming its shoreline, with some spectacular results.

Gowanus Canal by Nate Dorr

OBJECT: Deck of Cards

BODY OF WATER: Gowanus Canal

Gowanus 

Gowanus 

Artist Statement

New York is a city of nooks and crannies, discovered and undiscovered, above and below the waterline. Years of industry and years of the collapse of that industry have left much of the city ringed in relics: sunken piers, cement edifices, twisting metal. Recent times have seen much of the coastline reclaimed by municipal projects and developers, much more remains as it had been. And whatever the changes on the shore, it seems likely that the oil-slick surfaces of inlets like Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal will hold onto their mysteries for much, much longer. All of this is worth investigating, and worth documenting along the way.


I was dredged out of the Gowanus and deposited in Brooklyn in summer 2004. When computer problems forced me into a musical hiatus shortly after, I found myself wielding a camera with ever increasing frequency until musical concerns were all but forgotten. For the last couple years, I’ve bridged the gap as a photographer and writer for Impose Magazine.