In New York City, you can find cascading waterfalls right in the middle of the East River. This sounds impossible in the city, but of course, these aren’t natural waterfalls. Instead of falling from cliffs or mountains, these waters churn from metal structures—but at least the water’s real.
The waterfalls are part of Dutch and Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s current exhibit: The New York City Waterfalls, unveiled on June 26. The four waterfalls are located throughout New York Harbor: Under the Brooklyn Bridge, between Pier 4 and 5 in Brooklyn, on Pier 35 in Manhattan and along the north shore of Governors Island.
Courtesy of New York Water Taxi’s “Unofficial” Tour, I was able to check out the waterfalls, as well as the rest of New York Harbor, and learn about New York’s history a bit more. Launching from South Street Seaport’s Pier 17, the four waterfalls could be seen. Before we saw the waterfalls up close, we explored the rest of New York Harbor first. Our guide pontificated on the origins of Battery Park City, the Hudson River, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The metal structures resemble scaffolding, stirring up imagery of New York City construction. Using intake filter pools located in front of the waterfall, East River water is collected without harming fish. The pump sucks the water to the top of the scaffolding. The water falls down into the East River through a filter that resembles a cheese grater and creates the frothy waterfalls-look. Around each waterfall is black piping to deter boaters and swimmers from approaching too closely. At night, the Waterfalls will be lit up with LED lights powered by renewable energy. The heights of the Waterfalls vary slightly from 90 to 120 feet tall, mimicking New York’s skyline.
New York City is surrounded by water, and Eliasson wants New Yorkers to become aware of their aqueous environment. With that, you have the waterfalls, which showcase New York’s relationship and proximity to the water.
“In developing The New York City Waterfalls, I have tried to work with today’s complex notion of public spaces,” Eliasson said in a press release. “The Waterfalls appear in the midst of the dense social, environmental and political tissue that makes up the heart of New York City. They will give people the possibility to reconsider their relationship to the spectacular surroundings, and I hope to evoke experiences that are both individual and engage a sense of collectivity.”
The Public Art Fund and the City and State of New York, and especially Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pushed for these temporary exhibits throughout the city.
Eliasson describes his inspiration as coming “from natural elements and phenomena to create sculptures and installations that evoke sensory experiences.” He often plays with light and water in his works, such as the Green river in different Asian, American and European cities.
Eliasson is also featured at the Museum of Modern Art and P.S. 1 with his exhibit Take your time, a retrospective of his works, including new pieces.
Plans for the waterfalls began in March, 2006 and construction started in March, 2008.The Waterfalls will run through October 13, seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m, except on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.