More Information

Silent Beaches, Untold Stories: New York City's Forgotten Waterfront

New York City’s relationship to its watery environs is vital to understanding its evolution. A recent renewal of interest in New York City’s geographical and topographic history and an increasing focus on its waterfront has inspired Silent Beaches, Untold Stories: New York City’s Forgotten Waterfront, an interdisciplinary exhibition exploring waterfront areas that are remote, neglected, or little known to the general public and which have experienced long and sometimes tumultuous relationships with New York City’s changing needs. The exhibition will be a result of an investigation into what these remote waterfront areas reveal about New York City’s past and present environment, industry, and culture as experienced through a selection of historical and contemporary photographs, maps, documents, artifacts, prints, drawings, film, and interactive displays.

Research and exploration will focus on the following locations:    

  • Dead Horse Bay in Brooklyn, site of former horse rendering plants later replaced by landfill, now part of Gateway National Recreation Area.   
  • College Point in Queens, once the site of German breweries, resorts, airfields, and the still extant Poppenhusen Institute, home of the first free kindergarten in the United States.   
  • North Brother and Hart Islands in the Bronx, sites of typhus hospitals, children’s workhouses, missile silos, and potters fields.   
  • Rossville and Sandy Ground in Staten Island, site of one of the first free black settlements in the United States, established by oystermen up from Maryland after 1827 when slavery was legally abolished in New York State.   
  • The Newtown Creek in Queens, and Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn: highly polluted industrial waterways recently designated EPA Superfund sites   
  • The Rockaways, Broad Channel, and Jamaica Bay, a mix of wild-life, tight knit communities, city housing, and surfers. 

The materials for the exhibition will be on loan from the following sources: The Museum of the City of New York, the Staten Island Historical Society, The Queens Central Library, The Brooklyn Collection of the Brooklyn Public Library, the New York City Municipal Archives, Pratt Institute Library, the Hart Island Project, the Sandy Ground Historical Society Museum, and the New York Public Library. Additionally a section will be dedicated to a group of contemporary artists whose work is inspired by and often interacts with the New York City waterways including Mary Mattingly, Melinda Hunt, George Boorujy, Marie Lorenz, Eve Andree Laramee, Nathan Kensinger, James Walsh, Spencer Finch, and Joel Meyerowitz. Silent Beaches/Untold Stories will offer a uniquely comprehensive investigation of selected areas of the New York City waterfront for the purpose of engaging a broad audience in historical and contemporary environmental and civic issues. In conjunction with the exhibition there will be a series of related events including a reading series, film screening and artist’s talk from the Hart Island Project, speakers on the changing eco system, and a performance by maritime musicians “the Mercantillers.” An accompanying full-color catalogue will be published.

Dr. M. T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery/Sun Yat Sen Hall, St. John’s University, 8000 Utopia Parkway, Queens, NY 11439

September 3 - November 9, 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013, 4:30 - 7:30 p.m.