Brenda Coultas

from The Bowery Project


The Bowery Project is centered on documenting and reacting to the layers of debris including human kind that layer the streets of the Bowery in NYC. Specify the brief section between Cooper Union and Houston, an area that contains the remnants of SRO hotels and the remains of the 1890s Bowery that are slated to be demolished by The Bowery Development Plan in the next decade. I live a block from this section and travel through it daily. It will no longer exist by 2010, the artist coop (Kate Millett lives there)that used to be McGurk's Suicide Hall (named so because prostitutes flung themselves out the windows in a symbolic protest of their working conditions), the Sunshine Hotel, and various soup kitchens will be extinct. My intent in not to romanticize the suffering or demonize the Bowery residents but rather to comment on poverty, class, suffering, and my own dilemma and identification as a teacher and poet one paycheck away from the street.


Glass Beach
Tide was in and so looked at tree line of the land fill, could see bottles entwined in the roots, glass shards, and garbage compressed to a great density so as to become brown matter. I could see whole bottles that would be free in time and pulled one out, it had a brown liquid in it. Became entranced, curious if this was the original content. Or was it just rot and sea water?  A newspaper from the 1940s was lying on some wood, intact except for the edges; in fact so fresh, one could easily turn the pages. I wondered if someone had wedged it out from the roots or had the waves worked it free. Some person who cared about such things as history had placed it there. In fact, there were other scavengers who worked the beach silently setting aside vintage pop bottles and curiosities in a safe place for others like us.

Picked up 2 toy guns, ink well, sm brw, sm brw, 2 wh cold creams. Went home. (July 27, 01, Glass Beach , Brooklyn)

We spoke to a man scratching the sand with a stick for marbles. He knew the history of this place, said it a was horse rendering plant and indeed on the map it said Dead Horse Bay, and it had been a city dump that became a town composed of the dump's employees, then the city closed it down stating it was too toxic to live in. Now it was an unmarked stretch of public beach that the residents returned to regularly and bitterly.

The old glass had a lot of lead and it gleamed. I tried not to be greedy and to take only what I could carry. Meanwhile I left thousands. The broken glass tinkled in the surf and if I ever were to believe in mermaids, this is where they'd be. (July 24,01)

Thought I'd never look like "money." (Aug.. 1,01)

Looked in regular spot, nothing.  (April 27,01)

Went to Coney Island with some poets. We had a good time although the garbage was unremarkable. (May  5,01)

70s fake Victorian settee with toaster oven and orange juicer in original box. ( Aug. 30, 01, 2st & 2nd Ave)

Four panels of fake bookcases, 2 tabletops, glass chandelier, slightly broken, and man, with a cart painted blue and decorated with glamorous dolls, sizing it up. We stopped to discuss the objects. We guessed at the origin of them, maybe from the vaudeville days of a famous Bowery theater and shook our heads in shame that we couldn't take any it with us although it was cool stuff.  (Labor day weekend, 1st & Bowery).

Shopping cart painted red, metal 70s office chair. Man put small table in trash can and walked away. (Sept 4-01, Houston & Elizabeth)


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