Waterfront Management Advisory Board

NYC Pier 1
General Announcements:
  • There is Commissioner-level involvement in terms of understanding waterfront projects throughout the city, to help provide necessary context and data for the upcoming Comprehensive Waterfront Plan.
  • In January 2019, NYC EDC released their NYC Ferry Feasibility Study 2018/2019, around the time of the Mayoral Announcement of the NYC Ferry expansion.
  • Modification of the Astoria Route include Brooklyn Navy Yard (May 2019)
  • Launch of the St. George Route (2020)
  • Launch of the Coney Island Route (2021)
  • Extension of the Soundview Route: Throgs Neck/Ferry Point Park (2021)  
  • Modification of the South Brooklyn Route (2021)

Waterfront Public Access Implementation

DCP WOS presentation

  • Building off the momentum created at the first WMAB Meeting (9/2018) regarding the importance of waterfront public access, Allan Zaretsky of the DCP Waterfront and Open Space (WOS) Division briefed Board members on early phases of the Waterfront Public Access Implementation (WPAI) study to identify opportunities for increasing waterfront public access.
  • The study will identify gaps along the City’s waterfronts and waterways, and propose strategies for expanding access, particularly in areas historically underserved by waterfront open space. Since 1993, NYC has been a national leader in utilizing local zoning regulations to create new waterfront public spaces -known as Waterfront Public Access Areas (WPAAs)- as a condition of development on applicable waterfront lots.
  • Waterfront zoning requirements do not apply to industrial uses.         
    • This was initially due to the general incompatibility of public access and historic waterfront industrial activities.
  • However, since the 1993 initial adoption of waterfront zoning regulations, industrial uses in NYC have changed over time, and DCP is recognizing that rules regarding Waterfront Zoning may need to be updated as well.
    • The WMAB board discussed frameworks for assessing compatibility between uses and public access to ensure that maritime uses – industrial or otherwise- will not be inhibited from effectively function and expanding, while also recognizing opportunities for expanding waterfront access where appropriate.
    • The goal is to create new waterfront public areas and maximize public access in areas that are potentially being underutilized currently.
    • There are also opportunities to think more creatively about design and flexibility for public spaces that can activate waterfronts without encumbering surrounding uses. 
  • The Newtown Creek Nature Walk is an excellent example of how waterfront public access can be compatible with and enhance surrounding industrial areas.
  • There were also board member discussions regarding the importance of visual access for waterfront communities, especially industrial communities (since other types of access may not be feasible).
    • This potential visual access could also help foster community/ industry ties.
      • (Is it possible to calculate waterfront viewsheds to determine straightforward opportunities to reconnect communities with the waterfront through visual access?)
  • The discussion of the compatibility of waterfront public access and industry is part of a larger, broader analysis of where we have / do not have waterfront access in NYC.  
    • Since it is meant to be an overview, all types of access are treated the same.
      • (What are helpful ways of qualitatively distinguishing types of access?)
  • The WPAI study is supported through the NYS Department of State (DOS) Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).
  • During the second WMAB meeting, presentations by NYC EDC provided insight to the success of NYC Ferry, as well as the process for expanding to new areas of the city. (93% of riders rated NYC Ferry a 7+/10!)
  • Ferry locations are determined through a combination of extensive public outreach, and working with physical & navigational site constraints. Water depths need to be able to support both the size of the vessel and the necessary infrastructure.
  • Many ferry lines are linked to areas conventionally underserved by other means of transportation. (The Soundview ferry helped to cut typical commutes in half!)
  • The potential for NYC Ferry to collaborate with local institutions to collect valuable marine science data was also discussed. Can NYC Ferry collect water quality samples during its regular trips, for example?
  • Also on the agenda was the Port of NY & NJ- an incredible economic engine that pro- vides about 400,000 jobs in the region- and the huge potential for the maritime industry to support NYC’s sustainability & equity initiatives.
  • Inland barging emits 90-95% less carbon than trucks per mile (80x50), and also helps to reduce truck traffic (Vision Zero).
  • However, activating the full economic and sustainability potential of our waterways re- quires maintenance dredging of both primary and secondary navigational channels; which must also be balanced with ecological considerations and best practices.
  • The importance of waterfront access, for both physical and mental health, was unani- mously supported as a key priority to address; from creating access in neighborhoods that have been historically underserved, to expanding access on underutilized sites.
  • Increasing maritime employment opportunities, especially for those who live near or on the waterfront, but may currently feel disconnected from it, was also an important goal. This goal was coupled with support for increasing vocational training opportunities for maritime industries, potentially even in NYC schools.
  • Opportunities for affordable waterfront housing was also brought up multiple times, though how these goals can be brought together is a topic that needs further discussion.
  • While everyone agreed that increased safe, public access, and a working waterfront are important, others noted that these goals should run parallel to ecological restoration, and in conjunction with opportunities for increasing resilience.