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.

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