NYC Creates the Model Waterfront Plan

Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the New York City council announced a new 10-year plan and set of ambitious projects that will dramatically remake the city’s 520 miles of shoreline. The city government says the new approach, which is the first major plan focused on the watefront in two decades and the first ever for waterways, will provide a “sustainable framework” that will improve improve access to the waterfront, create new recreational spaces and natural habitats, increase the use of water-based transportation, and offer new opportunities for redevelopment and economic growth.

Along with the plan, there’s a new “action agenda” created with the Economic Development Corporation targeting 130 projects for funding and completion over the next three years. Among the major projects are more than 50 acres of new waterfront parks, 14 new waterfront esplanades, and a new commuter ferry service. These projects are expected to create 13,000 construction jobs and at least 3,400 permanent maritime and industrial jobs.

Mayor Bloomberg said: “New York City’s waterfront has always played a major role in its history and is one of its greatest assets – we have more miles of waterfront Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland combined – but for decades New Yorkers have been blocked from it and it’s become less and less a part of their lives. We’re committed to making it a part of New Yorkers’ lives again by completely revitalizing the waterfront and waterways.” Amanda Burden, the dynamic head of NYC planning and chair of NYC’s planning commission, added that “our water is the connective tissue between our boroughs and is, in effect, our Sixth Borough. We are now planning for our waterfront and waterways with the same intensity and passion that we have traditionally planned for our land.” She added: “We can […] use our Blue Network of waterways for transportation, recreation and education, for improving water quality, and for the first time addressing the challenges of global warming and sea-level rise.”

A few interesting components:

  • Water-based approaches for increasing the city’s resilience to climate change. Specifically, the program will involve improving the city’s abilty to recover from coastal storm surges and flooding. The city will work with FEMA to update the “Flood Insurance Rate Maps to reflect current risks” and also invest in mapping out new flood escape routes.
  • Investments in recreational boating on the water and new pier-based docks and public boat houses spread throughout the boroughs.
  • The implementation of “NYHarborWay,” which will “connect eight major waterfront points of interest by ferry or bike greenways.” The sites include Brooklyn Bridge Park, Governors Island, Hudson River Park, The Battery, Ellis Island, Statue Liberty Island, the East River Esplanade and Liberty State Park.
  • A new East River ferry service that will run between Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, providing a “convenient, sustainable transit option for developing communities and helping close the gap between our boroughs.” Also, there will be better connections with subways through an integrated MetroCard system.
  • A new “New York City Water Trail” that will enable park users to canoe or kayak between more than 40 locations. 
  • A sustainable ports plan that will explore moving “express-air cargo by water, potentially with airport passenger ferry service.” There will also be new “maritime hubs.”
  • Some $50 million of investment in waterfront ecological restoration, including new wetlands and marshlands at key watefront parks, and an exploration of “opportunities for large-scale oyster restoration.” Also intriguing: a “wetlands mitigation bank”to help finance this work.

Another big plus: the plan is expected to help push forward NYC’s bold green infrastructure plans, which were approved last year. While there are some $1.6 billion in water treatment plan upgrades (including $650 million in new grey infrastructure), the green infrastructure plans will lead to $1.5 billion added for natural approaches to stormwater management over 20 years. Perhaps this is not enough, but the waterfront plan does call for revamped regulations that can “streamline design and permitting processes for the incorporation” of private sector-led green infrastructure projects. 

Burden said Vision 2020 was the result of a “year-long, participatory planning process involving multiple agencies and organizations and input from New Yorkers in every borough.” Hundreds of public comments submitted online were used to create what seems to be another model big-city plan from this city’s management team and a very suitable companion for the ground-breaking PlaNYC. 
Read the plan

Image credit: Lower Manhattan waterfront / The Independent (UK)

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