Directed by Nathan Kensinger
Color, 18 minutes, 2018

Managed Retreat is a short documentary portrait of three New York City neighborhoods that were purchased by the New York State government in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, to be demolished and returned to nature as part of the city’s first ‘managed retreat’ from rising sea levels.

By the end of this century, New York City is expected to have up to 9 feet of sea level rise, radically reshaping its 520 miles of coastline, and impacting more than 100 coastal neighborhoods.

This observational documentary follows the process of retreat over the course of one year in three waterfront communities on Staten Island, as homes are destroyed, streets are abandoned, and wild animals begin to return.

Managed Retreat is now screening at film festivals, exhibits, conferences and colleges.




Upcoming Public Screenings

Managed Retreat: A Film Screening and
Panel Discussion with Nathan Kensinger
UMass Boston’s Sustainable Solutions Lab
Boston Society of Architects
Boston, Massachusetts
November 14, 2019

Managed Retreat: Documentary Screening
and Climate Change Resiliency Panel

The Conway School
Northampton, Massachusetts
November 15, 2019

Upcoming Classroom Screenings

Wagner College, Staten Island, Oct. 2019
University of Massachusetts, Boston, Nov. 2019
St. John’s University, Queens, Nov. 2019
California College of the Arts, S.F., Nov. 2019
SUNY Purchase College, New York, Dec. 2019

Previous Screenings & Exhibits

Rooftop Films
Brooklyn, New York
August 25, 2018

Creative Climate Awards
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office
Manhattan, New York
September 17 – October 12, 2018

Environmental Film Festival Australia

Imagine Science Film Festival
Brooklyn, New York
October 18, 2018

Environmental Empathies
Callahan Center Gallery, St. Francis College
Brooklyn, New York
February 6 – March 28, 2019

Hello Tomorrow Global Summit
Paris, France
March 14-15, 2019

Princeton Environmental Film Festival
Princeton, New Jersey
April 13, 2019

STATE Studio Gallery
Berlin, Germany
April 16 – July 25, 2019

Preservation Film Festival
National Lighthouse Museum
Staten Island, New York
April 27, 2019

Arquiteturas Film Festival
Lisbon, Portugal
June 8, 2019

At What Point Managed Retreat?
Resilience Building in the Coastal Zone
Columbia University
Manhattan, New York
June 19 – 21, 2019

Shoreline Change
New Films by Nathan Kensinger & Nate Dorr
Works on Water
Governors Island, Manhattan
July 6 – 28, 2019

Krakow International Green Film Festival
Krakow, Poland
August 21, 2019

Rockaway Film Festival
Queens, New York
October 20, 2019






About the Filmmaker

Managed Retreat was created by Nathan Kensinger, a documentary filmmaker, photographer and artist whose work explores hidden urban landscapes, environmental disaster zones, and coastal communities impacted by sea level rise.

Nathan has been documenting New York’s changing waterfront for the past decade, in an ongoing series of bi-monthly photo essaysHis photographs of Hurricane Sandy have been exhibited by the Brooklyn Historical Society and the Museum of the City of New YorkHis photo essays on ‘managed retreat’ in New York City have been published extensively by Curbed NY, and have been featured on the PBS Newshour and included in Nature Climate Change.

His previous projects include The Newtown Creek Armada and Gowanus Voyage, which used remote control boats to film two US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund sites in Brooklyn, New York.

For more information on his work, visit:



Press for Managed Retreat

“The start of Nathan Kensinger’s quiet documentary Managed Retreat begins innocently enough. Waves from the Atlantic roll in toward the viewer. A lone couple walks hand in hand along a desolate beach. A seawall meanders off into the distance. An abandoned car in a marsh sends a dissonant note that builds to an ominous beat.”
Landscape Architecture Magazine

“More than anything else, the film is a reminder of what we have in store for us… Already, wild animals have begun to reclaim the space, grass grows uncut, and houses have been demolished.” – Untapped Cities

“Managed Retreat evokes myriad emotions in the viewer, empathizing with the people who were forced to sell their homes and move on due to the ever-present environmental dangers… as well as understanding the value of allowing urban areas to be reclaimed by nature, providing habitats for wild animals.” – Clot Magazine

“The process of managed retreat is one of the most forward-thinking processes in New York City, in terms of addressing sea level rise and climate change. And I think we are going to see this process unfolding in other parts of the city in years to come, as we decide that we can’t live in neighborhoods on the waterfront.” – Nathan Kensinger in the Daily Mail

“It’s not a question of if climate change will continue to ravage New York City’s coastline; it’s a question of when. Sea levels continue to rise, and it’s entirely likely that many waterfront neighborhoods will experience more frequent and severe flooding – if they’re not wiped out entirely – in the decades to come. ‘For a lot of waterfront neighborhoods in the city, the choice will be to either move away from the water sooner, or watch as your house is destroyed all over again, as the tides get higher and flooding gets worse,’ Kensinger notes.”
Curbed NY

“It’s the first time that New York has decided to relocate entire communities, because of climate change. And very few people have heard of this process – people are not aware that their neighbors are tearing down their own homes, to escape from sea level rise. I’m hoping the film will give audiences a better picture of what may be in store for many other neighborhoods, in the near future.” – Nathan Kensinger in Burning Worlds and Artists & Climate Change

“A short documentary created by Nathan Kensinger is one work that particularly resonates…. Kensinger was able to capture the act of demolition and rehabilitation in a way that will still startle viewers…” – Artists Without A Cause

“How long should we hold onto some of these waterfront areas? How long can we actually live here at the water’s edge, if sea levels continue to rise as expected?… We’re going to have these conversations more and more frequently, about whether we need to move away from the waterfront, and move to safer areas for the future. That’s why managed retreat is a pretty forward-looking process. We’re getting out of harm’s way while we can.”
Nathan Kensinger in AM New York