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 9.5 feet of sea level rise, as climate change
radically reshapes its 520 miles of coastline, 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 and colleges worldwide.

Previous Screenings and 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
Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Melbourne, Australia
October 12, 2018

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

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

Cinema Verde Environmental Film Festival
Gainesville, Florida
February 14th, 2020

Watershed Justice Film Series
Guardians of Flushing Bay
Queens, New York
October 1, 2020

Campus & Classroom Screenings and Discussions

Wagner College, Staten Island, Oct. 2019
University of Massachusetts, Boston, Nov. 2019
The Conway School, Northampton, Nov. 2019
California College of the Arts, S.F., Nov. 2019
St. John’s University, Queens, Nov. 2019
St. John’s University, Staten Island, Nov. 2019
University of Pennsylvania, September 2020
Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Monterey, October 2020
The New School, Manhattan, November 2020
Leaders High School, Brooklyn, November 2020
NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Manhattan, Summer 2022
NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Manhattan, October 2022
NYU Gallatin, Manhattan, November 2022
NYU Gallatin, Manhattan, December 2023
The Cooper Union, February, 2024

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
photo essays. His photographs of Hurricane Sandy
have been exhibited by the Brooklyn Historical Society
and the Museum of the City of New York

His 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

“US photographer and filmmaker Nathan Kensinger who
has spent many years documenting New York
waterfronts, accompanied the process of people moving
out and wildlife moving in. His sometimes eerie images
of toys, clothes and furniture left in and around deserted
homes speak volumes about the power of the ocean in a
warming world. Most of what once constituted these
communities is now long gone.”Deutsche Welle

“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 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

“As Kensinger captures so strikingly, at a time of climate
crisis, for a growing number of New Yorkers, leaving
one’s home is not a dystopian or distant possibility but a
lived reality. Now, managed retreat has become a de
facto part of life in certain areas of New York City, even
as officials have not explicitly labeled it as such.”
Inside Climate News

  • All images © Nathan Kensinger 2024