By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Waterside Plaza was honored with typically British weather for the occasion of the royal wedding last Saturday but the spirits of Harry and Meghan enthusiasts weren’t dampened at the community’s viewing party, hosted in a joint event by Waterside and the British International School, which is housed on the property.
Aside from the school, Waterside Plaza has another unique connection to the UK that made it an especially appropriate spot to watch the nuptials of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle.
“We’re technically on British soil right now,” joked Michelle Glazer, who lives at Waterside Plaza and works at the school. While the school is not an embassy and not recognized as British territory, the statement is still somewhat accurate, even if just in a literal sense.
“Waterside was built on landfill that was brought back from the UK,” Glazer explained. “American ships went to bring supplies to Europe after the war but you can’t send empty ships back across the ocean, so they had to weigh the ships down with rubble that came from bombed out buildings.”
The viewing party for the wedding was open to the public and not just residents or students of the school, and about 100 diehard royal family fans showed up right at 6:30 a.m. for the main event, although the party lasted throughout the afternoon with various activities for kids. The event originally got 300 RSVPs but organizers attributed the lowers attendance to the lousy weather. The livestream from England showed weather that seemed more appropriate for New York this time of year, but organizers and attendees said they didn’t mind.
“We would prefer that Harry and Meghan get the sunshine,” said Abby Greystoke, one of the directors at the British International School. “We’ll take the rubbish weather for them.”
Didi Remarais, who has been living on Second Avenue at East 25th Street for the last 20 years, moved from Belgium where she said they have their own royal family that always represented something unapproachable, but the reason she is so enthusiastic about the British royal family now and this wedding in particular was the change the event seemed to represent.
“With Meghan, it becomes reachable,” she said. “It was always something not for commoners and we would watch it like a fairy tale but with Meghan, it shows there’s something more for us. She’s a pioneer, in a way.”
Emma Kontaxis, who is originally from Yorkshire in England, made the trip to Waterside on Saturday morning from the Upper East Side with her nine-month-old William, dressed in a very timely “just married” onesie congratulating the newlyweds.
Like Remarais, Kontaxis said that she’s more interested in the younger members of the royal family because they seem more approachable.
“I like the young royals like Zara (Tindall, daughter of Anne, Princess Royal),” Kontaxis said. “They’ve made the royal family more modern and more in touch with normal people. They don’t want to live in palaces anymore. Even divorce (used to be) a whole controversy. It’s more acceptable now.”
Kontaxis found out about the watch party and festivities through a Facebook group for British moms (or “mums,” as she said) and said that she is especially invested now because she’s far away from home.
“When you live away, it becomes more important to hang onto British things,” she said. “Even if I were at home, I would still be watching, but it’s even more important when living away. And it’s important for me that William knows his heritage.”
Most of the activities were moved inside due to the rain and only the Maypole had to be canceled because it couldn’t be done indoors, but the pony that was promised on the event invite braved the drizzle on the plaza to make an appearance later in the morning, to the delight of young students from the school. Other activities included crown decorating and bouquet-making, as well as a carousel.
Waterside general manager Peter Davis was enthusiastic about working with the school to put on the event and was glad to see people coming from so many different neighborhoods to enjoy the couple’s big day.
“Waterside Plaza is probably the most diverse community in New York City so it’s a perfect partnership,” said Peter Davis, the general manager of Waterside. “The community is emblematic of this wedding.”