Rollin' on a river Documentary highlights the beauty of being a 'City of Water'
by Mary Paul Reporter staff writer
Mar 28, 2008 | 2187 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hoboken is the backdrop of the Marlon Brando classic, On the Waterfront. So, it's only fitting that a screening of the documentary City of Water would appeal to the Mile Square City.

The film is part of a campaign effort for amenable public access along the waterfront on both sides of the Hudson River, and so the Metropolitan Water Alliance and the Municipal Art Society will present the first New Jersey screening of their film on April 6 at 4 p.m. at the Hoboken Historical Museum, 1301 Hudson St.

Life along the Hudson

The Jersey waterfront along the Hudson River seems to be in a constant state of development these days, and that's one reason this film was made - to examine how life in this area and surrounding others is affected by waterfront public spaces as well as developed or neglected bordering properties.

Jasper Goldman, director and co-producer of City of Water, is a senior policy analyst for the Municipal Art Society, and his documentary explores quality of life issues related to New York-New Jersey bodies of water.

"Making full use of our waterfronts for as many different purposes in New York and New Jersey is critical to making our cities more livable," says Goldman. "The more we can use our waterfront and waterways to get around, for recreation, to reconnect with nature, and for economic development - the better our cities will be as places to live in. The premise of the film is that with sound, balanced urban planning we can create a diverse waterfront that will support all of these kinds of functions and more."

Goldman believes the New York and New Jersey waterfronts are beautiful, but locals may not even realize it.

"You only really get a full sense of that beauty when you're out on the water - we wanted to capture that beauty on film," says Goldman, adding that he fell in love with the waterfront in the process of making the film, and he wanted to make sure the audience did, too. "The more strongly people feel about the waterfront, the more deeply they will care about its future."

Among the things the film highlights that Goldman feels are particularly beautiful about the waterfront are bridges like the GWB or the Verrazano (both of which are visible from the Hoboken riverfront), the Manhattan skyline, architecture, and nature. Goldman focuses on how the water itself is beautiful as well as the life it draws to its edges and that exists within it.

"Nature and its juxtaposition with the city is a beautiful thing, and the waterfront is and should be a place of nature. When you go down to Jamaica Bay in Queens, you see all kinds of birds flying in front of the Empire State Building and it's very attractive to see that."

A city on this side of the river

The Mile Square City, Goldman asserts, is a true exception to what he perceives as a lack of genuine public waterfront area in North Jersey.

"By far the best part of the N.J. waterfront is in Hoboken, where the street separating the private buildings from the waterfront park creates a real public space."

But, Goldman urges locals to take an interest in doing even more with the waterfront, hoping the documentary will inspire them.

He believes Hoboken residents in particular should see the film "to be exposed to more experiences and viewpoints about the waterfront, to perhaps become more aware of how the waterfront can be shaped in the future," adding, "There is still a significant amount of the Hoboken waterfront still to be developed and plenty still to plan for."

Additionally, Bob Foster, director of the Hoboken Historical Museum, believes that even though Hoboken comprises about a mile of waterfront, very few people truly understand the history of the river, how it's used, and how important it is to the town, which is why the museum is hosting a screening for City of Water.

"Hoboken has transformed its waterfront from an obsolete commercial use to a public use, and I think that it is the biggest change we've seen in Hoboken in the last 50 years, that transformation, but I think people need to understand a little more about the ecology about the river," Foster says. "We need to get more educated about the river itself. But, we are using our waterfront in a more public way, and waterfront is a great resource, obviously."

Approximately 500 feet from the water, the space the museum itself occupies is part of Hoboken's waterfront history. The brick building, dating back to the 1880s, was one of many on the site of Bethlehem Steel's shipyard.

Four-year Hoboken resident Carter Craft, executive producer of the film and director of policy and programs at the Municipal Waterfront Alliance (MWA), is a member of the museum and was a proponent of setting up the screening to highlight the importance of the water in Hoboken.

"There's a mix of working maritime, recreation, ferry transit, facilities for fishing and kayaking," says Craft, having moved to Hoboken after growing up in North Carolina. "There is some footage from Newport and Sinatra Park. [And the film] really tries to project a vision of the waterfront in the future."

Goldman hopes the rich history of the waterfront will instill pride in residents, encouraging them to take an active role in the redevelopment of the waterfront as in the stories of a few different communities represented in the film.

"We wanted people to become entranced with the beauty of the NY/NJ waterfront, to want to go out on the waterways, to be interested in their history, and so become invested in their future," says Goldman. "The hope is that the more we all seriously engage in thinking about its future, the better and more sophisticated the plans for the waterfront will be."

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