Development / Infrastructure / New York City

A Bigger New York – Exploring the Waterfront.

On March 14th, 2011, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn announced the release of Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, a 10-year vision for the future of city’s 520 miles of shoreline. This plan provides a sustainable framework for more water transport, increased public access to the waterfront and economic opportunities that will help make the water part of New Yorkers’ everyday lives.

Michael Bloomberg

“New York City has more miles of waterfront than Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and Portland combined – but for decades, too many neighborhoods have been blocked off from it … We have made huge strides in re-connecting communities to the waterfront, and now we launching an ambitious plan that ties those projects together into what will be one of the most sweeping transformations of any urban waterfront in the world.  We will build new parks, esplanades and housing, reactivate job-creating industrial activity, introduce ferry service, clean the water, and make it easier to paddle and sail around the five boroughs.  Our waterfront and waterways – what we are calling New York City’s sixth borough – are invaluable assets, and when our work is complete, New York City will again be known as one of the world’s premier waterfront cities.”
Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg

The New York City Waterfront


Following standard procedure, the waterfront plan was already submitted to the City Council, Public Advocate, Borough Presidents and all 59 Community Boards. This expensive but necessary upheaval of the NYC waterfront will be made possible with a grant provided by the New York Department of State through the Environmental Protection Fund.

The Eighth Goals of the Comprehensive Waterfront Plan 2020

1. Expand Public Access to the Waterfront

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Develop/acquire more than 50 acres of new waterfront parks (various dates).
  • Expand and enhance 10 existing waterfront parks (various dates).
  • Develop or initiate 14 new greenways and esplanades (various dates).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Extend borough-wide waterfront greenways in all five boroughs.
  • Pursue alternatives to the zoning requirement for opaque fences at maritime uses.
  • Establish street-end parks to provide access to the waterfront at sites where it is limited.

2. Enhance the “Blue Network”

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Pilot commuter ferry service on the East River (2011).
  • Establish design guidelines for best human-powered boat launch types and features (2013).
  • Expand launch platform for canoes and small boats at Hunts Point-Riverside Park (2013).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Improve connections between on-land transit and ferries, such as MetroCard integration.
  • Expand and improve the New York City Water Trail for human-powered boating.
  • Encourage public boathouses and boat storage containers at launch sites.

3. Support the Working Waterfront

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Renovate of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal to receive ships and barges (2012).
  • Complete environmental review of the New York Container Terminal expansion (2012).
  • Improve the 65th Street Rail Yard in Sunset Park Brooklyn (2013).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Explore moving express-air cargo by water, potentially with airport passenger ferry service.
  • Establish maritime “hubs” to support workboat operations in geographically strategic areas.
  • Establish guidelines for new developments near industrial areas to minimize impacts.

4. Enliven the Waterfront

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Facilitate 21 waterfront development projects, spurring private investment of $150 million.
  • Create uniform landing protocol to facilitate the docking of historic vessels (2012).
  • Begin construction of housing, parks and a school at Hunter’s Point South, Queens (2013).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Conduct citywide study to identify buildings and structures of historic significance.
  • Establish new policies to protect historic resources along the waterfront.
  • Consider requiring water-dependent uses in lease agreements on some City-owned land.

5. Restore the Natural Waterfront

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Implement $50 million in waterfront ecological restoration projects (2013).
  • Restore tidal wetlands and marshland at parks in the Bronx and Brooklyn (various dates).
  • Indentify opportunities for large-scale oyster restoration (2013).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Create and expand shorelines, shallows and intertidal areas.
  • Concentrate habitat creation and enhancement in protected ecological complexes.
  • Improve habitat for oysters, fish and other aquatic species.

6. Improve Water Quality

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Make $1.6 billion in upgrades to wastewater treatment plants (various dates).
  • Implement $650 million in gray infrastructure (various dates).
  • Invest $140 million to enhance drainage by acquiring land in Staten Island (various dates).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Improve pathogen and dissolved oxygen levels by reducing combined sewer outflows.
  • Reduce nitrogen discharges through improvements to wastewater treatment plants.
  • Streamline design and permitting processes for the incorporation of green infrastructure.

7. Improve Government Oversight

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Establish In-Water Permitting Task Force to reform regulations (2011).
  • Create a one-stop shop to help navigate the permitting process for in-water construction.
  • Develop a wetlands mitigation bank and/or an in-lieu fee program (2012).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Create design guidelines for piers and bulkheads to accommodate multiple vessel types.
  • Design bulkheads and piers with accommodations for getting in and out of the water.

8. Increase Climate Resilience

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Update PlaNYC to establish a strategic planning process for climate resilience (2011).
  • Work with FEMA to update the Flood Insurance Rate Maps to reflect current risks (2012).
  • Revise NYC Coastal Storm Evacuation Zone maps based on updated data.

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Identify resources to promote research and modeling of flood and storm surge risks.
  • Consider zoning changes to remove disincentives to enhanced flood protection of buildings.
  • Create an inventory of adaption strategies with potential applicability to New York City.



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