Robin Michals

Castles Made of Sand: New York Harbor Before the Flood is a series of photographs of the built environment most vulnerable to sea level rise in the New York/New Jersey harbor. Without protection from the rising tides, many of the buildings along the shore that now seem so solid will become as fragile as castles made of sand.

The primary goal of Castles is to localize the issue of global warming and bring attention to the impact of sea level rise on New York City. While projections of the future are almost always likely to be wrong, imagining the impact of climate change is one step towards the necessary public policy changes in order to avert the most cataclysmic effects of higher levels of CO2.

Vulnerable areas represent a cross-section of the harbor from Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan to NYCHA’s Coney Island Houses in Brooklyn. Key infrastructure from wastewater treatment plants to transit yards is also located in low-lying waterfront areas. Much of the formerly industrial waterfront around the city from Hoboken to Hunter’s Point has recently experienced considerable development and population growth. From the residential neighborhoods of southern Brooklyn to the newer developments in New Jersey and Queens, more people than ever live close to the water and will experience the impact of increasingly frequent and intense storms. In an era of limited resources, advance planning and innovative solutions like those being implemented in the Netherlands will both change and preserve our waterfronts.

BIO: Robin Michals is a photographer whose work investigates the urban waterfront with a focus on environmental issues. Her series “Toxi City: Brooklyn’s Brownfields” was exhibited at the Brooklyn Lyceum in 2009 with support from the Brooklyn Arts Council and the Puffin Foundation. She lives and teaches photography in Brooklyn.


Coney Island Creek, 2012, Archival Pigment Print, 21×14″


White Building, Brighton Beach, 2012, Archival Pigment Print, 21×14″


Manhattan Beach, 2012, Archival Pigment Print, 21×14″


Coney Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, 2012, Archival Pigment Print, 21×14″


Coney Island Transit Yard, 2012, Archival Pigment Print, 21×14″



Coney Island, 2012, Archival Pigment Print, 21×14″

Need help with the Commons? Visit our
help page
Send us a message
Skip to toolbar