October 28th 2009 -
If the Harlem River is "New York's forgotten waterfront" then Substation No. 3 is one of the most forsaken places in New York City. Situated on the Bronx shores of the Harlem River, few references can be found to its history, its architect or its purpose. Unlike the well documented Substation No. 10 in Inwood, Substation No. 3 is not even mentioned in the exhaustive Harlem River study written by Columbia's historic preservation program. Just one historic reference to its existence can be found online: an unpublished photograph in the NY Public Library archives, culled from a 1926 collection titled "The Pageant of America - Volume 4: The March of Commerce."
Substation No. 3, also known as the Kingsbridge Substation, is a simple structure. Two stories in height, it is constructed from utilitarian red brick. Inside, two large skylights loom over an open hall. Exposed to the elements, the substation's interior is in relatively poor shape compared to Substation No. 10. Heavy equipment is collapsing into the basement.
Perhaps the most striking thing about this anonymous structure are the numerous objects found inside that indicate a family recently called it home. Luggage, blankets, medication and a toothbrush are tidily arranged around the substation alongside the belongings of several children: stuffed animals, a baseball glove, story books. Like the haunting Victim Services center in Staten Island, these objects hint at a bleak, unwritten history.
October 28th 2009 -
In October 2009, I was invited by the Open City Dialogue lecture series to present a selection of my photographs of abandoned New York. In a presentation titled "Pretty, Vacant: A Slideshow of Abandoned New York," I traced the evolution of my photography of New York City, beginning with the San Francisco Navy Yard, which has long been a source of inspiration. The presention explored Red Hook and Brooklyn's industrial waterfront, before expanding out into a variety of sites around Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx and Queens.
The lecture was previewed by Time Out New York, which described the photographs as "eye-opening (and sublimely beautiful)." The lecture was also a pick of The NY Times, which wrote "photographer Nathan Kensinger is an inveterate trespasser, climbing around the city’s abandoned buildings and decaying waterfronts to chronicle them. His work... uncovers some of the last unseen parts of New York." In a related article, Flavor Pill wrote that these photos "evoke nostalgia for a New York that most of us never witnessed."
Please note: the slideshow above is a slightly condensed version of the original presentation, and does not include narration.