Coenties Slip, originally an artificial inlet in the East River for the loading and unloading of ships that was land-filled in 1835, is a historic street in Lower Manhattan, New York City, in the heart of the Financial District. It runs southeast from Pearl Street to South Street, a distance of two blocks (585.6 feet). The entire length of the road is a pedestrian street, though before 2013, the block north of Water Street carried vehicular traffic.
Coenties Slip is mentioned in the opening page of Herman Melville's Moby Dick: "Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see? ..."
Although surrounded by skyscrapers, a row of buildings from the 19th century still stands along the block that is open to vehicles, and these buildings are in active use by small businesses. The construction of these high rise buildings resulted in the removal of the blocks between Water Street and Front Street, and between Front Street and South Street. Part of 55 Water Street and part of the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial are built on land that was once part of Coenties Slip. Both Coenties Slip and Coenties Alley are named after Conraet Ten Eyck and his wife Antje.
Arthur Bartlett Maurice describes Coenties Slip in a 1935 book Magical City: “At the head of the Slip, where the Elevated road winds its way along Pearl Street on its way from South Ferry to Hanover Square, stood the Stadt Huys of Dutch days, the first City Hall on Manhattan Island. After the Erie Canal was finished in 1825, the slip, then only a tiny corner of what it is today, harbored many of the canal boats that plied along the new waterway connecting the Atlantic and the Great Lakes. Ten years later the land was filled in, bringing the Slip down to a new water’s edge on South Street. New buildings went up, only to be destroyed within a few months in the great fire of December, 1835.”
In 2010, the Downtown Alliance proposed upgrades to Coenties Slip and Whitehall Street plazas. Coenties Slip between Water and Pearl Streets was closed, painted, and converted into a pedestrian plaza in 2013. However, a $23 million permanent upgrade stalled because of a lack of funding. In 2018, New York City Department of Transportation announced permanent upgrades as part of the Water Street upgrade project.
Coenties Alley, formerly City Hall Lane, is an historic pedestrian walkway that leads inland from Coenties Slip. The alley runs south from South William Street to Pearl Street, and is the cut-off for Stone Street's discontinuity. In the 17th century, New Amsterdam's City Hall stood at Coenties Alley on the north side of Pearl Street, just to the north of Coenties Slip.
For a time in the mid-20th century, Coenties Slip also was the home for a group of ground-breaking American artists. From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, the artists Chryssa, Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, Lenore Tawney, Fred Mitchell and Jack Youngerman lived in this Lower Manhattan location overlooking the East River.
These artists were among a group of intellectuals, writers, filmmakers, and poets who lived and worked in the old seaport at the lower tip of Manhattan called the Coenties Slip. Distinguished by its views of the Brooklyn Bridge and its position between land and sea, the slip served as an important inspiration for the artists, who frequently incorporated aquatic themes into their early work.
Selections of their early works were shown in an exhibition, entitled "Between Land and Sea: Artists of the Coenties Slip" at the Menil Collection in Houston, TX, which ran from April 14, 2017 to August 27, 2017.
The exhibition featured 27 aesthetically distinct works, united by the artists’ desire to locate new ways of thinking about abstraction. Curated by Michelle White, the exhibition drew heavily from the Menil's holdings and was augmented by important loans from private collections in Houston and the Lenore Tawney Foundation, New York.