Amid the flurry of manuals and plans released by various city agencies over the past few months, only the NYC Waterfront Vision and Enhancement Strategy brought out Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for the kickoff. Touted as the first-ever comprehensive plan for the city’s waterways, it sprang from a law sponsored by Quinn and passed by the city council in 2008. City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden joined the mayor and speaker on a ferry trip to Brooklyn Bridge Park where the report, aka “Vision 2020,” was officially released, with the Lower Manhattan skyline and East River as a backdrop.
The plan is divided into two components: Vision 2020, which outlines long-term goals, and NYC’s Waterfront Action Agenda, which highlights 130 high-priority projects expected to be completed over the next three years.
Vision 2020 lists eight citywide goals before delving into a borough-by-borough and neighborhood-by-neighborhood analysis. The in-depth neighborhood study details the small and large, from installing “Jane’s Carousel” in Brooklyn Bridge Park, to replenishing a mile’s worth of sand on Orchard Beach in the Bronx.
Expanding public access tops the list, providing real access for New Yorkers to get onto and into the water. Other goals focus on integrating development to “enliven” the waterfront, improving water quality by upgrading infrastructure, and restoring degraded waterfronts by reintroducing species to their natural habitat. New York’s once famous oysters and mussels get major coverage: the humble shellfish are very effective at removing particulate organic matter from the water—not a bad thing when sewers overflow.
On the commercial front, the city plans to address needs of the port and maritime industries by expanding the capacity of facilities by 2014, the year that the Panama Canal Expansion is expected to be complete. Off shore, the plan calls for streamlining the tangle of multilevel government regulations. And finally, the plan addresses the whale in the room: climate change. Calling for “resilience planning,” it includes studying the effects of storm surges and flooding, adding new zoning regulations, and coordinating with FEMA and the insurance industry to update data on future flood risks.
Compared to Vision 2020’s 190-page manual, the seven-page Action Agenda may seem miniscule. But there’s nearly $700 million in funding already allocated for the 130 projects that are expected to create 13,000 construction jobs and 3,400 permanent maritime jobs in three years. The combination of jobs and environmental concerns won the ringing endorsement of Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance President Roland Lewis, a former opponent of the administration’s policies. “We lose the services of the port, and we end up using trucking inside the city,” said Lewis. “The bottom line is that this is a good, balanced plan that takes into consideration improvements for the natural environment and protections for the working environment.”