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.

Waterside by Rick Caruso

OBJECT: Concrete Pilings



 Artist Statement


My initial idea was to use old ledger paper that I had to make a cityscape and a waterline and show an above and below water level view of the city. As I started to construct it, it became more fractured and formal looking. I used an old East German machinists’ workbook that I found in a free book pile when I was visiting a friend in Berlin and realized that buildings I was constructing out of the graph segments looked vaguely German and cold and also looked a lot like some of the buildings at a place called Waterside on the East River, right above Stuyvesant town in the mid 20′s. I was working there a lot this fall for a friend’s landscape design company who has them as a client. The Waterside buildings have their own weird history. They were built on top of World War II rubble from bombed houses and buildings in Bristol, England – shipped over here for whatever reason (there is a little plaque at Waterside talking about it being built upon England’s “Oaken hearted fortitude”). There are four huge buildings there that were built in the sixties in this really ugly and cold in post Bauhaus communist / projects like style. Everything is hard edged and cold looking and reminded me a lot of the buildings I was making out of the graph rectangles. The other weird aspect of Waterside is that it’s built on a platform jutting into the East river which is supported by – I think – hundreds of concrete pilings and they actually have a team of full time divers that dive everyday to check and fortify the pilings. So, as I was making the piece I was thinking about Waterside and the system of supports and structures underneath the water, and how the coast of Manhattan in general is strange in the way that the water doesn’t just meet up with a beach or pier but has the system where it grows out into the water in this layered way.

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