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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.

In a Way We Were Always Here on the Moon by Julia LoFaso


1.

No need to leave your shoes by the door. Our home has long been open to the outside. Across the water, steel and glass shoot up like rootless trees. And it’s a rare privilege, we realize, to go to seed. We appreciate your visit and aim to be of service.

2.

You have questions, maybe. This house, the one you’re standing in: who built its first fire? This railing, smooth as bone: whose hands have worn it down? We were here when it happened; let’s talk while we still can. One day the crowds will drown us out. No more paint to flake under your fingernails, new floors reinforced against creak and moan. They will sandblast the crumbs that fell from our mouths, lay forgotten under fridges for lifetimes.

3.

We have so much practice at being forgotten. We’ve even taught it to others. Like Collins, circling the moon where other men would land, plant flags. He grew here, on this island, learned the fine art of living in reflected fame. We saw him off with such high hopes, watching the sky from down here. Lunar light enhancing our stereotypical translucence, we were white wisps waving, wiping tears.

Our most famous/not-famous son all grown up! Off piloting a module, satellite to the sparkle. Larger than life but still circumnavigating the spotlight. Is he not our finest example, evidence enough of our expertise? It’s an essential skill to cultivate, being forgotten, the only tool you’ll utilize eternally.

4.

But this place we lived, this place where you stand. It has not forgotten us. It can’t.

A house is water, wood, electricity: a body with aches and ills harboring secrets in its joints. Not ancient manuscripts, necessarily, not treasures, just the exertions of unknown builders’ muscles, the breath of their unknown lungs. Nestled between beams, wires fray, praying for rain and end of days, when they’ll spark and make contact with lightning at last.

Incredibly, there is a fire in every basement. Tamed, for now, in an iron fortress, glowing red to warn you. A line of oil snakes unseen below the street, below the river, a mainline straight to the center of the Earth and all the millions it buried over eons. We run on those fumes, on that haunting. We have nothing or maybe everything to be afraid of.

If you’re rattled, it might help to remind yourself of something.

Anyone can haunt. Everyone does. You haunt your own mother when you leave her body. You haunt that first home for all time.


Julia LoFaso's writing has been published or is forthcoming in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Conjunctions, Underwater New York, Day One, The Southeast Review, and Elm Leaves Journal, among other publications. She has an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University and lives in Queens. 

Found in Nature by Barry Rosenthal


In today’s world, consumer goods are increasing in volume. At the same time, their useful lives are shorter and shorter. Consuming without a thought of what is left behind is what we are taught. Found in Nature spotlights the remnants of consumer goods in the context of ocean borne pollution. The viewer confronts collections of found objects pulled from the shores of New York Harbor and experiences the way humanity is managing its relationship with nature and the oceans in particular.


Barry Rosenthal, a fine art photographer, is also an urban archaeologist and sculptor. He studied photography at the Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio and at the Apeiron Workshops in Millerton, New York with notable photographers Emmet Gowin and George Tice. Barry‘s fine art images can be found in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Springfield Museum of Fine Art Springfield, Massachusetts. Barry is a resident of Lower Manhattan, along with his wife and daughter.

Found in Nature, started in 2007 as an offshoot of his botanical work, has evolved from miniature collections of found objects into large-scale images that represent ocean borne trash. By using a combination of sculpture and photography and breaking down the found object trash into themes of type, color or whimsy, Rosenthal is able to bring awareness to the global issue of ocean pollution.

His project Found in Nature has a worldwide following and has created opportunities for Barry to talk about his work to a larger audience. His photographs have been published in arts and culture magazines as well as general interest news publications around the world.

In the fall of 2010, Rosenthal became a resident artist at chashama in the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Brooklyn, New York. It was then that he was able to refine his vision of his project to where it became socially and environmentally conscious.

Entrapment 1 by Alexis Neider

Alexis Neider created this artwork for an event in collaboration with Marie Lorenz's Flow Pool at Recess. See pictures and read more about it here.


OBJECTS: Surveillance, Baby Jello

BODIES OF WATER: New York Harbor, Gowanus Canal 


Photographs by Alexis Neider and Nate Dorr


The ice hand sculptures are connected by a web of crochet tentacles that swim, entrap, and survey the waters.  Ideally, the ice will act as a buoy for the ropes. As the ice melts, the tentacles will swim, fly in the current, and then sink. This piece is "surveillance" as an object, and also "baby jello."


Alexis Neider is a painter and print-maker.  Her work uses domestic forms to address patterns of entry and barriers to entry over time.  Alexis has exhibited widely across NYC including at Local Project, A.I.R. Gallery, Clemente Soto Velez Center, Centotto Galleria, Steuben Gallery, Pratt Institute, Cuchifritos Gallery, Brian Morris Gallery, and Spacewomb.  She has exhibited internationally in Budapest at Villa Barabás Galeria and in Spain at Can Serrat.   She has attended residencies at Can Serrat, A.I.R. Budapest, Fowler Dune Shack Residency, and Catwalk Artist residency.  She lives in and creates work in Brooklyn, NY.

 

Sea Elegy by Bobby Gagnon

OBJECT: dead giraffe

BODY OF WATER: New York Harbor


Music Credits:

Mark Brotter - Drums

Charlie Torres - Bass

Charlie Giordano - Keyboards

Martin Bisi - Door Hinge

Bobby Gagnon - Guitars

Engineered by Martin Bisi - BC Studios, Brooklyn, NY

Image Credit: Giraffe courtesy of John R. Hutchinson. Used by Permission.

Web Waters by Alice Neiley


There’s a perfect view of the ocean if I sit on the highest monkey bars of a Battery Park playground, or on one of the blue chairs that face north in the Poets House library across the street. Tree branches block the reality of an opposite shore. Green and yellow leaves catch Manhattan’s gauzy sunlight and the water appears endless; the Hudson River is the sea.

This won’t work in the winter of course, but for now, early October, my imaginary ocean and I still have another month or so together. Soon, I’ll just be watching as the river flows toward the New York Harbor, underneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and into the darker, truer sea I can’t see from here.

Sometimes I wonder if love is fate, a choice, or what. Can you make a list of what’s in it? 

*

Before moving to the city, I lived in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a small fishing village at the tip of Cape Cod. I jumped in the water every day my last year there—no wetsuit—even in January. Patchy sheens of ice over the beach some mornings, I’d dive in head first, breath leaving my body as if sucked through a vacuum. The quiet cold would tighten around me fast, squeezing all the energies I’d ever had through my body and just like that, I’d be wrapped in a rumpled towel, strangely warm. The whole experience never lasted more than five minutes. It was like being shot from the belly of a firecracker for the hundredth time—both mechanical and explosive.

I told people I did it for the invigoration, the kick-start to my day. But really it was for the moment between underwater and running to shore. When I’d burst back into the December, January, February air, only my skin noticed if there was sun, or snow, or waves. My skin woke up, questions disappeared, and for that moment there was nothing else to say or think, nothing else about me at all.  

 

Since moving to New York, I’m prone to anxiety attacks. Sweaty, chest tightening choke holds that seem to come out of nowhere—in the middle of a quiet stretch of Central Park, in the middle of a meal, in the middle of the night. I found Battery Park a few weeks ago, and watching the boats drift on their moorings, I can breathe.

I’ve started to make a mental list of all accessible bodies of water near the city, researched where the water is deepest, most swimmable.

“Hell’s Gate,” a portion of The Narrows tidal straight where the New York Upper Bay, Long Island Sound, and the Hudson River intersect, is 35’ to 40’ deep. But even though the tides keep the area relatively clean, I’d need a boat in order to take a dip out there, and probably a tether to attach myself to its cleat. That same tidal flow can speed up to 5.0 knots depending on the wind and lunar cycle, increasing the depth and current to a swirl unforgiving to swimmers.

When my girlfriend, Karen, and I are  apart, I think about her hands a lot. Even for the longer, three month stretches we’ve spent in each other’s company, I’ve never been able to stop looking at them: her long fingers typing, turning a key, braiding between mine like the beginnings of a web.

One winter visit to Ottawa, near sunrise, Karen threw on a giant hoodie sweatshirt and went downstairs to get a fire going. I got up, stood by the window, and rubbed my eyes. There. There was the ocean. I pressed my nose up against the snow spattered glass and almost yelled out why didn’t you tell me it was here!, when a pink and blue tinted cloud lifted, and the smoke stacks across the city appeared, the hard angles of houses.

“Hey do you think the almond milk from last week is still good?” Karen called up the stairs; she knows I like it in my coffee.  

I sat down on the bed. I covered my eyes with my hands and rubbed, trying to get the ocean back.

I sometimes still wish she would figure out a way to bring it to me, even just a little piece—a piece of my old self for this new, concrete self I don’t recognize at all.

“I’m never going to be able to buy you a nice sweater for a gift, am I?” she joked once. I wanted to tell her that of course she could. I wanted to say I’d love anything from her. A sweater, a bunch of flowers. I wanted to be an easier person. But what I wanted even more was proof that if I was to forget who I was, she would remember. I wanted her to know that one rose and a bouquet of carnations were found in New York City’s Dead Horse Bay, still fresh and colorful, probably not even a day old. I wanted her to know—osmosis, telepathy—that those flowers would be a perfect gift. Or a photo of those flowers, or even if she had been the person to tell me about them—how they survived underwater and died when they were pulled out.

 

There’s a tangle of cross currents known as the “The Spider” off Battery Park. The Hudson’s breadth and the East River’s fast flow converge at their worst about two hours after high tide. The current rushes north in the Hudson River and west from the East River. This spidery water movement can cause ships to be trapped, unable to turn or change course under their own power. For hours, no one realizes they’re motionless, stuck, even in the place they most understand how to navigate.

*

When I turn all the other lights off, my room is illuminated only by a string of Christmas lights, completely green. For a moment I’m not pretending to be somewhere else. I’m not wishing whatever I’ve left behind would come back.

The Hudson River is not the ocean, but they’re the same color, especially when the light hits at 6pm. My room is suddenly the flashing safety light on top of coast guard stations, buoys, lighthouses, ship masts, underwater forests. 


Alice Neiley has a BA in English from the University of Vermont and an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from Hunter College in New York City. Her work has been published in Vermont Quarterly, Nashville Review, Eckleburg Review, Brandeis University’s Kniznick Gallery, ReSearch: Ezine of Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center, ReviewYou, Tottenville Review, ReviewYou.com, Tahoma Review, Provincetown Arts Magazine, and now Underwater New York. She currently works as a creative writing professor for undergraduates at Hunter College.

 

Water by Elizabeth Bradley

Elizabeth L. Bradley has contributed to Underwater New York, Salon, Smithsonian.com, and Gothamist. "Water" is excerpted from her new history, "New York," by permission of Reaktion Books, London, England (please note Anglicized spelling throughout). "New York" is available for purchase here


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.

It is tempting to suggest that circumnavigating the island is the best way to enjoy its coasts. How else can a visitor be sure to see the fabled ‘Little Red Lighthouse’ perched on Jeffrey’s Hook just under the George Washington Bridge? Or catch a glimpse of the mysterious and deadly East River strait of Hell Gate, made famous by the stories of Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper and by HMS Hussar, a British frigate that sank there in 1780, supposedly with a cargo of gold that has never been recovered? For the intrepid, the non-profit group Shorewalkers hosts an annual ‘Great Saunter’ around the island every spring: 32 miles, rain or shine, extra socks encouraged. But Manhattan’s shores are easier than ever to discover in smaller increments, thanks to Hudson River Park, a 550-acre park that runs from 59th Street south to Battery Park and includes every possible amenity from batting cages and a carousel to rock climbing and a trapeze school. It also includes the busiest bike path in the United States, which pedestrians cross at their peril. Brooklyn Bridge Park, on the other side of the East River, compresses some of the same programmes into a much smaller footprint: 85 acres in the shadow of the bridge, including public boating, a restored 1922 carousel in a Jean Nouvel-designed acrylic-and-steel hangar and artisanal lobster rolls. Unlike Hudson River Park, on the Brooklyn side visitors can actually dip their fingers (and their feet) in the salty estuarial water of the East River, thanks to several pebbly bays scattered throughout the park, and when a passing barge or ‘booze cruise’ sends a wake towards the shore, the gentle waves breaking on the shore might briefly be mistaken for an oceanfront beach – briefly.

If circumnavigation still appeals, there is a smaller, more verdant island that can satisfy the most ardent shorewalker without risk of blisters. That is Governors Island, the former military base, now partly open as a public park and easily covered on foot or by bike (after a quick ferry ride to the island from Brooklyn or Manhattan). But for visitors hoping for a chance to do their best On the Waterfront, New York’s coastline offers plenty of challenges, minus the longshoremen. Begin by canoeing with the Gowanus Dredgers on the Gowanus Canal, a nearly 2-mile-long waterway that has just been designated a Superfund site by the u.s. Environmental Protection Agency. The canal, which still serves as a shipping channel for deliveries of gravel and scrap metal to industries located on its banks,is noteworthy for the opaque, grey-green colour of its water, its noxious odour (stronger in warm weather) and its near- complete lack of animal life. No birds float on the surface of the Gowanus, and the only animals that have been spotted swimming in it are those that have made a wrong turn from New York Harbor into Gowanus Bay. Still, the canal intrigues residents and visitors as much as it alarms them. Despite its peculiar hue and stink, the Gowanus suggests something romantic and vigorous in Brooklyn’s past – and it looks quite beautiful in the moonlight. The canal’s Superfund cousin, the Newtown Creek, divides Brooklyn and Queens and has a more noble purpose: it is home to New York’s Wastewater Treatment Plant and the plant’s spellbinding, stainless-steel ‘Digester Eggs’, which look as though they were taken straight from an MGM lot to the plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The Digester Eggs are open for public tours once a month, but reservations are required, and the waiting list is long. Closed-toed shoes are a must.

In lieu of a Superfund site or two, true devotees of New York’s coasts take to the beach – in particular Coney Island, in Brooklyn, which is more famous today for its amusements (including the shiny new rides of Luna Park) than its narrow seashore, and Rockaway Beach, in Queens. The Rockaways, as the skinny Rockaway peninsula is known, comprise a diverse set of communities, from public housing projects to single- storey beach bungalows to private, gated communities, surrounded on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the other by the calmer waters of Jamaica Bay. The Rockaways, and their neighbouring island of Broad Channel, were all but obliterated by Hurricane Sandy in the autumn of 2012, and the turn-of-the-century character of some of the older neighbourhoods may never be fully restored. But the A-train subway service has been restored, and with it comes one of the most peculiar of New York summer traditions: surfing the Rockaways. It is not unusual to see Manhattanites board the A-train to Far Rockaway with a longboard tucked under their arm, prepared to take public transit to the only legal ‘surfing beach’ in the five boroughs. For boarders, or those who wish to rub (wetsuited) shoulders with them, the ideal place to end a day at the beach is Rockaway Taco, a brightly-painted tin shack just off Beach 90, famous for its surfer cool, even in the face of hurricanes. The boardwalks may not yet be completely replaced, but the fish tacos are definitely back.

 

Mirage by Erika Vala

BODY OF WATER: New York Harbor



Erika Vala is a painter, curator and merchant of beautiful adornments.  She was born in Oregon and now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Her current medium is watercolor and is influenced by the great watercolorists of the 18th and19th century; Turner, Granet, Charles Burchfield, Homer and Thomas Moran. The mood and feelings evoked from the renderings of “classic” landscapes are her primary interest and focus. She can be contacted at vala.erika@gmail.com

Cervine Quick Current by Carl Schlachte

OBJECTDeer

BODY OF WATER: New York Harbor


 

Taking into account the curvature of the earth, struggling to stand, they came here first from

          transitional areas between forests and thickets,

 

From the river three of them climb early October banks in the shadow of the bridge.

 

Call it what you will, if you favor escape or panicked burst because the terms vary with dialect

          that looms over the horizon, can be seen and spans for miles, can’t ignore that one was

          bound

 

To find their way here, as if summoned to be seen as a noble creature. They appeared, to be used

          as flattering simile or metaphor when in comparison to a famous warrior, hero or chief,

          who by comparison will take on their qualities—but bound

 

This prisoner is who we are now, flattering its area with candor but caring not for this, scared and

          appeared and uninterested in working as a symbol for humans who can’t suggest

          otherwise our regret.


Carl Schlachte is yet another poet living in Brooklyn. He is an MFA candidate at Brooklyn College. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Brooklyn Review, 1913: A Journal of Forms, and The West Wind Review.

Sound Navigation by Katie Naughton

OBJECT: Surveillance System

BODY OF WATER: New York Harbor


For you it’s easy the slip the darkness me
my bones glow like gunshots on the wharf.

Before I even ask what are you swimming for
before I let slip a mess of wires out of my mouth

into the water. I get the sense someone is watching
for us I get the sense I should keep my mouth shut

when you kiss me this time swim off into the bay.
Put my ear to the planks and listen to water

pleating itself brackish in the pilings you weave
in by strokes kicking off the wires naked in the waves.

Want to follow you to that dry place below the bridge
where your chest is a paper lantern. Want to be gone

by the time the echo lets me know what you shouted
up to the train when it goes loud over the bridge.

If I get there if you make it back from if someone doesn’t
I would climb the tower dampen my luminous bones

in dressed-up flesh drop a handful of nickels down
in the river make a cloud of sound you could escape again.


Katie Naughton lives in Brooklyn. She writes about science for kids and others, and is looking forward to bike-to-the-Rockaways season. She can be reached at kathleen.e.naughton (at) gmail (dot) com