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.

The Day the Ocean Turned Our House Inside Out by Marna Chester

OBJECT: Hurricane Sandy

BODY OF WATER: The Rockaways

4 in. square / sand, nails, wood, foam, mulch

Artist Statement

When Hurricane Sandy struck, my childhood home in the Rockaways was hit. Left in charge to clean it up, I experienced an overwhelming torrent of emotion. The storm not only ravaged our homes and belongings, it turned our guts inside out too.

Marna Chester is a multidisciplinary artist, arts administrator and native New Yorker. She holds a BFA from Alfred University and an MPS in Arts and Cultural Management from Pratt Institute. With years of professional experience as a window dresser and prop-maker, Marna’s interests lie at the intersection between art and public engagement. She currently works as a donations coordinator at Materials for the Arts, NYC’s oldest reuse center.