Catch — & — Release

The Seaport Stories


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Welcome to South Street Seaport, a twelve-block neighborhood by the East River in Lower Manhattan. Once the port of New Amsterdam, it is also where fishmongers, wise guys, artists, and residents created a rich and unique cultural mosaic together.

Explore the Seaport, listening to the stories told by the people who have seen it transform through the past three decades. These memories, all tightly intertwined, reveals what is no longer visible on the surface of the Seaport today.


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About the Project

Catch — & — Release is a participatory design project in South Street Seaport that unearths hidden and forgotten aspects of the neighborhood’s rich history and culture. As the birthplace of maritime New York City, South Street Seaport holds extraordinary cultural assets that have been overlooked while going through generations of economic and environmental changes. By animating inactive spaces with cultural activities featuring recent and historical local lore, Catch — & — Release deepens a sense of place and community for both neighborhood inhabitants and visitors.

Part 1 (December 2013 – March 2014)

The first part of Catch — & — Release highlighted the resilience and agency manifested by the people of South Street Seaport in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The temporary interactive space at South Street and John Street invited neighbors and visitors to step inside, take a moment to reflect on their experiences during and after the storm, and give recognition to the help they received from the Seaport community. Participants released their messages of gratitude by writing and raising notes using the rope and pulley system, materials tied to the Seaport’s maritime history. More than 150 cards, aggregated in the space over three months, collectively visualized the strong social bonds within the Seaport community and beyond.

Part 2: The Seaport Stories (April – October 2014)

The second part of Catch — & — Release provides a deeper understanding of the South Street Seaport’s history and culture. Multiple perspectives and personal memories of the Seaport, collected through community engagement, charrettes, and in-depth interviews, reveals the lively cultural mosaic which has defined a sense of place for the community for the past half century.

This unique storytour guides visitors to explore the Seaport, either on site or through the website, listening to the untold stories by its characters: a painter, a photographer, a fishmonger, a composer, and others, whose stories are all intertwined within this twelve-block enclave.

As a performative launch event, we had two special nighttime walking tours led by three of the storytellers: Barbara Mensch, the photographer; Frank Mineo, the fish monger; and Naima Rauam, the painter. Starting at the South Street Seaport Museum (housed in the historic Schermerhorn Row which was built as counting houses in 1812) the walking tour provided visitors a special opportunity to listen to the vivid tales on site and share their own stories, experiencing the Seaport through bringing back to life what have made the Seaport extraordinary.


Part 1

Photographs by Yeju Choi

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Project Team and Credits

Project Lead Designer:
Yeju Choi
Community Outreach Strategists:
Francesca Birks
Josh Treuhaft
The Public Society
(part 1)
B. Tyler Silvestro
(part 2)
— Part 2 —
Interviews and Documentation:
Yeju Choi
B. Tyler Silvestro
Yeju Choi
B. Tyler Silvestro
Website Concept, Design, and Development:
Yeju Choi
Mathew Suen
Special Thanks to:
Richard The
Sound Mixing:
Napat Snidvongs
— Part 1 —
Space Design and Construction:
Yeju Choi
Chat Travieso
Heechan Kim
Chris Fox
Community Charrette Plan and Production:
Francesca Birks
Josh Treuhaft
Publication Concept and Design:
Yeju Choi
AIGA Design/Relief Program Director:
Laetitia Wolff
AIGA Design/Relief Project Board:
Willy Wong
Glen Cummings
Manuel Miranda
AIGA Director of Operations:
Stacey Panousopoulos
AIGA Design/Relief Intern:
Taylor Kuhn
Our Sincere Gratitude to the Seaport Community:
Barbara Mensch, Charles Deroko, Frank Mineo, Gary Fagin, Jack Putnam, Kit White, Naima Rauam, Zette Emmons, and others, for opening their doors and sharing their inspiring memories and thoughts with us;
Robert LaValva of New Amsterdam Market and Claire Weisz of WXY for introducing us to this wonderful community and supporting the project
Warm Thanks to Our Community Partners:
South Street Seaport Museum, Ali Osborn and Gideon Finck at Bowne Printers, Old Seaport Alliance, Community Board 1, Out To See, New Amsterdam Market

Catch — & — Release is part of AIGA/NY’s Design/Relief initiative, a participatory design project that aims to help the neighborhoods of South Street Seaport, Red Hook, and the Rockaways imagine a more vibrant future for themselves as they overcome the lingering effects of Superstorm Sandy. This special project of the New York chapter of AIGA explores the potential of design in defining and expanding creative placemaking to positively transform communities.

Design/Relief is supported by an innovation grant from ArtPlace America.

Phase 1 of Catch — & — Release was prepared for the New York State Department of State Office of Coastal, Local Government and Community Sustainability with funds provided under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund.