New York’s waterfront plan plans the next decade for the city’s coastlines

The nearly 300-page report is the first waterfront shot since Super Storm Sandy, and comes at the end of a year in which the city was rocked by several severe weather events.

Adi talwar

View of the north shore of Edgewater Park in the Bronx.

A new city report offers a roadmap for harnessing New York City’s 520 miles of coastline.

This week, the Town Planning Department (DCP) published its Complete waterfront plan, describing the opportunities for the city to improve its coastline while boosting jobs, strengthening climate resilience and promoting environmental justice.

The nearly 300-page report is the first waterfront shot since Super Storm Sandy, and comes at the end of a year in which the city was rocked by several severe weather events. In 2021 alone, New Yorkers experienced blizzards that shut down the subway system, a summer of record-breaking several heatwaves, and in September, flash floods that killed more than a dozen New Yorkers, many of them immigrants living in basement apartments.

“We kind of scratched the surface of climate resilience in the last full waterfront plan,” said Brendan Pillar, of DCP, in an interview with City Limits this summer. “And since Hurricane Sandy nine years later, the attention of New Yorkers to climate resilience issues is much higher than ever.”

The agency released the plan in the final weeks of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure, leaving the task of implementing the roadmap to new Mayor Eric Adams.

Adams has expressed his support for a greener city. In February, in his role as president of the Brooklyn borough, he published a report promote an agrarian economy for New York City, with an emphasis on educating youth about urban agriculture. During his run for mayor, he discussed an infrastructure investment plan along the waterfront with the city’s investment budget while promoting green jobs, and criticized the lack of access to the coast from the Robert Moses-era highways.

“We must not only build the infrastructure to protect our waterfront, we must continue to reactivate our functional waterfront to create the green technology jobs of the future that will be integral to the development of an economy capable of reversing the climate change, ”Adams said.

Koenig Worrall, CEO and chairman of the Waterfront Alliance advocacy group, said the Waterfront plan should be seen as “a guiding vision for incoming and future administrations.”

“This includes proposed solutions to address climate risks, especially in vulnerable communities; realize the potential of underused shorelines for recreation; and re-imagine the waterfront as a place to work, live and play while we work for its protection, ”Koenig Worrall told City Limits.

DCP officials who worked on the report told City Limits that their top priorities are resilience, access and economic growth. Here is a summary of the main points of the plan.

A resilient coastline, developed with flooding in mind

In the report, DCP focused in part on climate adaptation and resilience, outlining specific goals the city could focus on to better protect the coastline from climate change. These include increasing education, developing risk-informed land use policies, focusing on resilient design, and completing projects that have been underway since Super Storm Sandy in 2012.

Specifically, the report suggests implementing building retrofitting programs, building resilience in areas where future flooding can be managed, and limiting residential development in high-risk riparian areas where flood management is critical. less likely in the future.

“It is also important to recognize that over time, climate change and sea level rise will make some areas unsuitable for residential use and result in the loss of some existing homes,” the report said. “Housing new housing at locations outside the flood zone, as well as at suitable locations in coastal areas, will be necessary to meet the city’s long-term needs. ”

Adi talwar

Reinforced dunes on the edge of Oakwood Beach on Staten Island.

A “fair” transition to new sources of energy

The report notes an emphasis on seeking a ‘just transition’, in which communities that disproportionately bear the burden of the effects of climate change are empowered in the process of transitioning to renewable energy.

“A just transition is based on the recognition of the harms and traumas of the past and on the creation of new power relations to facilitate a society-wide transition to a regenerative economy,” the report says.

It discusses community land trusts and a community-owned solar project as examples of how city agencies can enable New Yorkers disproportionately affected by the impact of climate change to benefit from a transition to urban areas. renewable energies. It also highlights a collaboration with community leaders, including UPROSE, a Sunset Park nonprofit.

“These projects aim to transfer power and resources to environmental justice communities that have suffered the lasting effects of urban renewal and industrial pollution from fossil fuels,” the report said. “Many of these same communities face increasing threats of flooding and heat from climate change. “

Waterfront access

The vision for climate justice outlined in the report will be further explored by the Mayor’s Office for Climate Resilience, which is working on a roadmap for climate adaptation to be released next year, according to the office’s director. , Jainey Bavishi.

“Over the next 10 years, the city’s waterfront policies and programs will be guided by the principle of climate justice that all New Yorkers should live, learn, work and play in safe, healthy environments. , resilient and sustainable, even as the climate changes. said Pillar.

Defenders and community organizers of environmental justice districts have long expressed frustration with the city’s lack of access to the coastline and water. In its recommendations for the report, the Waterfront Alliance suggested that the city prioritize access to water, including adding spaces accessible to people with disabilities.

He also noted the potential of the city’s maritime history to promote interest in the waterfront and suggested that the city improve access to public facilities near its coasts. (Last month, a plan for a new boathouse in Sherman Creek Park in Inwood, along the waterfront, was criticized for not including a public washroom.)

READ MORE: Access to public toilets at the heart of the dispute over Inwood Park’s new facility

Green economy

As New York increases its offshore solar and wind facilities, the city sees additional opportunities for jobs and economic growth. He suggests investments in waterfront hubs, including the food distribution center at Hunts Point, Governors Island and Brooklyn Army Terminal, as well as the use of Rikers Island, which is set to close, for renewable energy.

DCP also recommended focusing on job promotion, including partnering with CUNY colleges to prepare students for offshore wind jobs and tapping into career centers to improve access to industrial jobs.

Another goal to achieve this goal is to build and improve infrastructure along the waterfront, including tunnels damaged by Super Storm Sandy or at risk of sea level rise.

“We have a goal [with] all of this work, which links waterfront investment to employment and career advancement opportunities for New Yorkers, ”DCP’s Lucrecia Montemayor told City Limits this summer, as the plan was underway. .

Liz Donovan is a member of the Report for America Corps.

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