New York City and much of the rest of New York State faced considerable damage after the wreckage done by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In the aftermath of the storm, New York State purchased three waterfront Staten Island neighborhoods with the aim of deconstructing them and returning them to nature completely. This process has been documented by filmmaker and photographer Nathan Kensinger in his new film “Managed Retreat”, which is premiering at the closing night of Rooftop Films Festival at Industry City in Brooklyn, this Saturday, August 25th.

The film follows a year in the deconstruction of these New York City neighborhoods, as well as their gradual return to nature. Already, wild animals have begun to reclaim the space, grass grows uncut, and houses have been demolished. The trailer for the film shows some of the film’s breathtaking shots—a house being destroyed, rusted cars submerged in post-apocalyptic swampland, and an abandoned beach shoreline. In one scene, a claw of a crane rises from behind a boarded up house, and devours it.

But more than anything else, the film is a reminder of what we have in store for us. The trailer opens with the stark statement: “By the end of this century, sea levels are expected to rise as much as 6.6 feet.” Managed retreat is the process by which land is utilized as a natural buffer against advancing sea levels, much like a seawall or large rock structure. This helps to protect areas further inland from flooding during future hurricanes or storms. The use of managed retreat, in turn, promotes coastal stability even as sea levels rise. An official strategy after Hurricane Sandy, managed retreat is in practicality difficult to enforce amongst resisting homeowners who do not want to leave. And so, very little has been documented managed retreat in general, until now.

To buy tickets for the Saturday’s film premiere, you can purchase e-tickets from the Rooftop Films’ website.

Film still from Managed Retreat, courtesy of Nathan Kensinger

Next, take a look at the new Hunter’s Point South Park, designed with storm sustainability in mind.