A solo dancer explores and inhabits this odd, empty beach, the ruin of a 20th-century concrete factory, which extends into the East River at Stuyvesant Cove Park (East 20th Street). The footage, shot during a spectacular dawn on the last day of summer, creates a narrative of one character’s intimate journey in an eclectic natural/industrial ecosystem amid the vastness of New York City. This is a love song to one moment in the city’s ever-changing landscape and personality – a moment of freedom, beauty, and joy in movement – soon to be washed away by the tide.
THE FILM aims to document and revel in the special place that is the beach at Stuyvesant Cove Park, a kind of secret hiding in plain sight. The accompanying exhibit, on display at the 14th Street Y from June 30-September 4, 2017, tells the beach’s backstory, which is completely unknown to most visitors. That piece of waterfront was a major concrete factory in the mid-20th century, then a city-promoted real estate development site (“Riverwalk”) that was contested by nearby residents who feared being cut off from the East River by five large towers.
After a lengthy civic process between residents and city and state officials, the development was defeated, a park planned, and then built. A separate years-long debate over whether to keep or remove the “rocky outcrop,” or beach, was finally resolved in the beach’s favor. With the continuing involvement of the community, plus the park manager, the nonprofit Solar One, Stuyvesant Cove Park has flourished.
The Team chose to move forward on a fast schedule, with no budget, because the beach stands on the brink of more change. At least three major alterations to the landscape are in the works: A new ferry stop is planned for East 20th Street, immediately south of the beach. The entire lower Manhattan waterfront will be reworked for storm resiliency via the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. And the low-rise Brooklyn waterfront, already dotted with towers, will continue to climb toward the sky.