Dec. 21st, 2016 - Waterfront Sagas


Linda Cunningham at the Bronx Museum.


(Sophia Paliza-Carre, WNYC)

“It’s seductively beautiful, but in fact, it’s in ruins.” - Linda Cunningham, executive director of the Bronx Arts Space.

Some of New York's prized outdoor areas include gems like Brooklyn Bridge Park, Battery Park (with its sea glass carousel), and Socrates Park in Queen.

In Mott Haven and Port Morris, residents don’t yet have that green space to brag about. The waterfront is there - if you walk straight down Lincoln Avenue past 132nd street, you’ll hit water, kind-of - but it’s not very accessible.  Rather, you’ll hit a small enclosed outcrop on the river just past the Oak Point Link rail. Once there, you see a sign indicating there should be no swimming, no fishing and no boating. You’ll also smell the scent of garbage, as trucks carrying one third of New York City's trash cruise by every few minutes.

This is one of the few public access points to the South Bronx waterfront. It’s places like these that inspired artist Linda Cunningham in her work on display at the Bronx Museum, Waterfront Sagas. She’s been living 5 blocks from the waterfront for 16 years and has been photographing it ever since.


Cunningham's work, Waterfront Sagas.


(Courtesy of Linda Cunningham)

She used photographic transfers on canvas to convey different locations in Mott Haven where you can see the water.  “I have chain link fence that is drawn so that it kind of looks like it's really fence in front of this mural because I’m more than symbolizing the fact that we can’t get to it. We can’t enjoy it. We can’t use it. It’s all dedicated to some other purpose or just left to be trash.” 

She hopes her work will inspire further development and open public access to these impassable areas. Community groups including the New York Preservation Project and South Bronx Unite are working to do so. There’s quite a bit of interest in developing the waterfront. Developer Keith Rubenstein is hoping to build an esplanade next to the residential towers he’s building by the Third Avenue Bridge. Empire State Development is also now seeking proposals to develop thirteen acres of the Harlem River Yards.

Linda’s concern is that as development moves forward, the public, won’t have full access. She’s not sure what the solution is. “Maybe we need to engage, period, with everybody. There are a lot of artists that think we should have nothing to do with the developers, but I don't think we're going to win that way.”

For more on the South Bronx waterfront, listen to Sarah Barrett's full story on what developments are in progress, and upcoming: The Long-Awaited Waterfront


The view of the waterfront from the eastern tip of the South Bronx.


(Sophia Paliza-Carre, WNYC)