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.

Humpback Whale by Amy Jean Porter

OBJECT: Baby Humpback Whale 

BODY OF WATER: East Hampton 


Amy Jean Porter has drawn more than 1,200 species of animals for her ongoing project “All Species, All the Time.” She has had solo shows in New York, Chicago, and Paris and her work has been featured in Cabinet, Flaunt, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. Her first book, Of Lamb, a collaboration with poet Matthea Harvey, was recently published by McSweeney’s. View her work at