Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Muddying the Waters

The first of it was shipped in from New Jersey, 500 tons of an off-white grain which is evidently in high mixture of dirt and silt, on top of which a series of cheap wooden tables serve as vending counters on which Tecate and Pabst are tendered for five dollars a can, and where an open grill continuously produces a wet, rich, cloud of beefy grease.

When the beach was expanded northward along the East River to accommodate more seating and an occasional volleyball court, it was supplemented with several more truckloads of sand imported from Long Beach, and the slightly paler, finer, grains now intermingle throughout, mixing freely with ashes and dirt, a briny beige-gray that finds its way on to every surface, gets caught in the occasional kick or gust and drifts over tables and folding chairs.
That’s an excerpt from “Some Versions of Pastoral,” an essay by Zachary Sachs from At Water’s Edge, the just-released first volume of a chapbook series published by the MFA Design Criticism Program at the School of Visual Arts (a.k.a. D-Crit). Edited by students Saundra Marcel and Vera Sacchetti, with faculty member Akiko Busch, the book collects essays on New York’s waterfront by this year’s graduating class. Zach visited Long Island City’s Water Taxi Beach and found “a half-acre — perfectly rectangular — bank of sand”; other essays consider the Gowanus, Red Hook, the Staten Island Ferry, navigating the alternately shabby and glossy edges of the boroughs.