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.

Submerged by Charis Emily Shafer

OBJECT: Parts of Zone B

BODY OF WATER: Hurricane Sandy

Artist's Statement:

Personal narratives reveal the minutiae of an event so epic in scale it escapes understanding. So it is here with the recollections of Sally and John: an artist and his muse. On May 3rd of 2013, they recounted their mutual affection and shared struggles with gentle ribbing and creative interplay. A clandestine painter, John stored his completed canvases in the basement of their Sheepshead Bay home. When Hurricane Sandy flooded the neighborhood, the house was spared, but not so with the paintings, many of which were of his muse, Sally. But, in spite of this, the two find humor and joy in each other and, because of it, they are embarking on another as-yet-uncharted creative voyage together. 

Charis Shafer has worked on a boat and has swum with bioluminescent phytoplankton; she is also an independent multimedia producer living in Brooklyn who moonlights as the Assistant to the General Counsel at the Open Society Foundations. She has worked for the Columbia Center for Oral History, conducted oral history interviews with the Brooklyn Historical Society, recorded podcasts for the LA Review of Books, and produced the short film Occupy: An Oral History Project, featuring narratives of those involved in Occupy. Her current projects include: BrooklynPop, a Brooklyn-based podcast on pop culture; a music video with the singer/songwriter, Julia Weldon; and a satirical Web series. And yet, she still finds time to explore aquatic New York with her wife and their dog, Sylvie.