Organizing a Maritime Renaissance
|When they aren't paddling around Governors Island at the
Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance's City of Water Day Festival, kayakers
and other Alliance members are working to get more town docks buit
throughout the City. Photo by Paul Margolis.|
On the railing along the
Hudson River in Battery Park City, a Walt Whitman verse is inscribed:
…City of hurried and sparkling waters!
City of spires and masts!
City nested in bays! My city!
Since the Dutch settled on the island of Manhatta in 1625, New Yorkers have
been putting their 578 miles of shoreline to work—exporting, importing, ship
building, fishing, ferrying, sailing, and yes, dumping.
Over the past four hundred years, New York City’s waterfront has greatly aided
in bolstering the overall commerce of the City. Unfortunately a lack of
planning, complicated permit processes, private development, brownfields, and
other obstacles have stymied coordinated development of the waterfront. More
loading docks, ferries, and water taxis would cut down on highway traffic
congestion and air pollution.
More parks and town docks would give people places to bike, boat, picnic, or
just soak in the views. Estuaries and better edge design can bring more
wildlife back into New York Harbor. Zoning and other incentives can expand
businesses and other activities along the waterfront that create good jobs in
shipping, boat repair, and transportation.
The Trust funded the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance in 2004 to help establish a Waterfront
Committee that would get the City Council to mandate a waterfront land-use
plan, rather than doing nothing. The Alliance consists of more than 400
organizations with the same goal—to transform the New York and New Jersey
harbors and waterways, making them clean and accessible.
grant of $50,000 was awarded to the
Alliance to further carry out the Waterfront Action Agenda, which is a plan
that lays out a clear menu of achievable and measurable steps towards a
building a better waterfront. The Alliance conducted a survey measuring the
availability of water-based environmental education programs and worked closely
with the Department of City Planning to develop a method of gathering community
input on the waterfront plan. This resulted in eight public meetings and it
ensured that those participating represented the environmental justice
community and a diversity of waterfront communities from all five boroughs.
addition to helping move this citywide planning and organizing effort forward,
a 2009 grant of $50,000 helped
the Trust for Public Land (TPL) work with community groups on
Staten Island and in Queens to create plans for their waterfronts. TPL was
instrumental in securing $3.5 million from the Port Authority of New York and
New Jersey for enhancements to the Blissenbach North Shore Marina, which will
restore waterfront access and revitalize the area. Additionally, TPL protected
a key waterfront area on the Rockaway Peninsula, 1.25 acre site that will
safeguard the area’s habitat and provide Jamaica Bay’s 2,400 residents with
public access to 500 feet of shoreline.
families on the North Shore of Staten Island can’t get to their waterfront or
don’t want to because of its derelict condition and lack of public amenities.
But this is beginning to change. “Redevelopment
of this area has been slow, but the Trust for Public Land is pushing it
forward,” says Andy Stone, TPL’s director for Parks
for People-New York City program. “In 2004, using funds provided by the Port Authority of
New York and New Jersey, we helped acquire a former marina in West Brighton
from a family who no longer wanted it and then handed it over to the City Parks
Department. We will work with the City and local groups to help plan a park
that is accessible to residents.”