Jara Henry Valenta was a Czech-born American artist who made his way to New York City in 1934. Here he painted this scene of a lonely East River power generating station, with New York Hospital and the Queensboro Bridge in the background.
His waterfront—we’re on the Manhattan Brooklyn side—feels stark and remote. Off to the right are two small figures holding shovels beside a pile of coal, a coal company truck parked beside one.
This is a waterfront without the usual hustle and bustle, perhaps a comment on the Depression-era city’s change in fortune from a vibrant metropolis of trade and shipping to one of economic stillness.
[Note: this post was updated to reflect the background information and history provided by the commenters below. Thanks everyone for their insight. Now, if only I could find out more about the painter.]