First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris today joined Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) Chairman Kevin M. Rampe, Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Iris Weinshall, New York artist Bryan Hunt, and Alice Aycock, sculptor member of the Art Commission, to unveil the impressive sculpture in the redesigned, historic Coenties Slip triangle in Lower Manhattan. Made of stainless steel and surrounded by glass, the nautically-themed Coenties Ship pays tribute to Lower Manhattan’s history as a bustling port. The $1 million project, funded by the LMDC and Goldman Sachs, was honored with an Art Commission Award for Excellence in Design in 2004. During excavation, two sections of wooden water pipes from the early 19th century were unearthed—the best preserved example of the wooden pipes that made up New York’s early infrastructure.
“With more than 1,300 monuments, including over 300 sculptures, New York City’s parks are the largest municipal open air art museum in the United States,” said First Deputy Major Harris. “The unveiling of the Coenties Ship installation adds to our collection of permanent and temporary art that can compete on an international stage. We encourage all New Yorkers to enjoy Bryan Hunt’s sculpture and the many other works of public art throughout our five boroughs.”
“Coenties Slip was once the berth of sailing vessels—now it has been transformed from a closed street bed to a gem-like public space,” said Commissioner Benepe. “Its centerpiece is Coenties Ship, a spectacular new work by world-renowned artist Bryan Hunt, a longtime resident of Lower Manhattan.”
“The LMDC is proud to support the transformation of Coenties Slip into an award-winning public space that promotes artistic brilliance, while preserving and honoring an important part of the City’s maritime history,” said Chairman Rampe. “LMDC has invested nearly $275 million for parks and open space initiatives throughout Lower Manhattan. By working with our partners at the Department of Parks & Recreation, the State and the City, river to river, we are creating a greener and more beautiful downtown.”
“Working with the Parks Department and Art Commission to help revitalize Coenties Slip has been very rewarding,” said Commissioner Weinshall. “Bryan Hunt’s beautifully designed sculpture brings new life to one of the oldest parts of our city and creates a peaceful space for all New Yorkers to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Lower Manhattan.”
LMDC gave $918,500 for site work, the sculpture, and glass pavers surrounding the sculpture. Goldman Sachs contributed $85,000 to the Mayor’s Fund for the sculpture. The reconstruction of the triangle creates a granite and bluestone sitting area with benches, plantings and a formal central plaza space, which is the setting for Hunt’s Coenties Ship. At night, the glass dome will be illuminated from within and cast light to reflect on the sculpture above. Reflective glass pavers surround the sculpture, emphasizing the glass bell. The sculpture is part of a series of works called “airships.”
<“We are thrilled to add a work of this quality by an artist of Bryan’s caliber to the City’s vast art collection,” said Aycock, sculptor member of the Art Commission, which honored Coenties Ship and the integrated redesign of the triangle with a 2004 Award for Excellence in Design.
“The Coenties Ship is a stainless steel vertical form that moors—or stands—upon a circular dome of cast glass,” said artist Bryan Hunt. “I wanted the form to invoke buoyancy and nautical nuance poised for a future.”
Hunt graduated from the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles with a Bachelor’s of Fine Art and participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. His work has been shown throughout the United States, Europe and Asia with pieces being added to many public collections including the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum. He has worked and lived in Tribeca for more than 20 years.
Coenties Slip, originally a boat slip at the end of Lower Manhattan when Pearl Street was the water’s edge, was the first extension of the Manhattan shoreline for commercial purposes. The north end of the slip, between Pearl and Water Streets, was filled in between 1754 and 1766. By 1782, Water Street was filled but it was not opened until 1794. The shortened slip was still used by vessels, and one of the most famous people to board a ship here was Herman Melville. Coenties Slip is mentioned on the first page of Melville’s legendary novel Moby Dick. During the 1950s and 60s, the area around Coenties Slip was home to many artists.
During excavation of the site, two sections of wooden water pipes from the early 19th century were unearthed. Long pipe sections like those discovered—13 feet long and 14 inches in diameter, in good natural condition, with joints intact—have never before been preserved. According to JP Morgan Chase archival materials, the pipes found at Coenties Slip were laid circa 1808.
The Manhattan Company—today known as JP Morgan Chase—was a water supplier in the late 1700s that laid a network of log distribution pipes downtown. Over the past two centuries, much of the pipe system has rotted away or been discarded. The discovery of these pipes, part of the City’s oldest surviving infrastructure, is a rare and important historical find.
Parks & Recreation has been working with the Department of Environmental Projection, historians and conservators to preserve and ultimately find an arena where the pipes can publicly exhibited.