Division of Planning

New York City Waterfront Revitalization initiatives

New York City Local Waterfront Revitalization Program

New York City is one of the world’s premier waterfront destinations. With over 520 miles of waterfront, New York City has about 17% of the State's total coastline, and 38% of the total coastal population. New York City has been a partner with the Department of State since the approval of the original New York City Local Waterfront Revitalization Program in 1982. A subsequent Comprehensive Waterfront Plan (1992), companion Borough Waterfront Plans (1993-1994) and Waterfront Zoning Regulations (1993) were developed and incorporated into city policy through new waterfront zoning text, and a revised Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) certified in 2002. The 2002 LWRP (link to approved LWRPs table), encompassing 10 waterfront policies and administered by the NYC Department of City Planning, is now the City’s principal coastal zone management tool, along with revisions to the waterfront zoning regulations of 2009.
Within the framework of the City’s original 1982 LWRP, the City completed the 1992 Comprehensive Waterfront Plan (CWP), which included a comprehensive inventory of the City’s entire waterfront that would guide the redevelopment of vacant and underutilized waterfront; development of a connected public waterfront with parks, lineal bike and pedestrian pathways; the protection of waterfront habitat and tidal and freshwater wetlands; and the protection and expansion of maritime industry. The CWP identified, defined, and mapped prime natural areas as Special Natural Waterfront Areas and industrial areas with intensive water-dependent and industrial uses for special consideration in the form of Significant Maritime & Industrial Areas.

A decade later, the NYC Department of City Planning unveiled a 2011 update entitled New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan: Vision 2020. The City’s Department of City Planning crafted the plan in-house, initiated by a process characterized by a significant public education and engagement process throughout the City’s waterfront Community Board districts. City Planning crafted the update with the collaboration, contribution and support of four advisory groups comprised of talented professionals, stakeholder group representatives and city, state and federal partners, including our office, which funded the endeavor, staffed technical advisory working groups, and assisted with critical technical support and document review over the course of the project. Vision 2020 received the American Planning Association’s national 2012 Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan. Building on the updated inventory and vision established in Vision 2020, the City continued its work with the constituency of stakeholders and has nearly completed a draft update of its LWRP.

Since 1994, our office has given 140 EPF LWRP awards for projects in New York City, totaling approximately $49 million on projects ranging from design and construction of public access to the waterfront, waterfront redevelopment, habitat restoration, water quality protection and enhancement, coastal education, planning and community capacity-building. Currently, the collaboration with city agencies, boroughs, and project partners is focused on 51 active projects.

Brooklyn Waterfront

Our office is working with the City on several priority projects along Brooklyn’s East River waterfront, from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, having awarded 24 grants totaling nearly $10,000,000. We continue to partner with the Borough of Brooklyn, the non-profit Brooklyn Greenway Initiative and the Regional Plan Association on the planning and development of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway through Community Boards 1, 2 and 6, involving coordination among municipal, state, civic and private entities to develop the greenway route, open space opportunities, and maintenance and stormwater management planning. The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway will ultimately be a 14-mile, continuous pedestrian and bicycle pathway along the waterfront, linking the East River waterfront greenway in Queens with the Shoreline Greenway below Bay Ridge and beyond.

In Sunset Park, we continue to support the development of critically-needed open space at the former Bush Terminal Piers. A new waterfront park is being constructed to provide the community with water-dependent recreation opportunities, pedestrian and bicycle access, and the rare chance to experience natural areas, such as a restored salt marsh and a bird sanctuary.

Revitalization of the Greenpoint/Williamsburg waterfront and neighborhood has been a City priority, positioned by the 2005 waterfront neighborhood rezoning to redevelop the waterfront with housing and connected public waterfront access. While the rezoning has been successful in transforming portions of the Williamsburg waterfront, Greenpoint's waterfront remains virtually unchanged. For nearly a decade, our office has supported the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and NYC Economic Development Corporation in the design and conversion of the former WNYC Public Radio site into Transmitter Park, a new public waterfront set against the dramatic riverfront view of the NYC skyline. The park was opened to the public in 2013.

Our office is working with the NYC Department of Small Business Services and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation on planning and design for the upgrade and rehabilitation of deteriorated infrastructure and waterfront facilities at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In the past, we supported the Navy Yard in long-term strategic planning and the comprehensive rehabilitation of the historic Building 92 on Admiral’s Row, completely renovated and fashioned into a museum that showcases the history and innovation of the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the Revolutionary War to the present.

Fresh Kills Park

Our office has partnered with the City to advance the transformation of what once was the largest landfill in the hemisphere. At 2,200 acres and almost three times the size of Central Park, Fresh Kills Park on Staten Island is one of the most ambitious public works projects in the world. Park build-out will be a long-range endeavor, which will combine state-of-the-art ecological restoration techniques with extraordinary settings and vistas for recreational amenities, wildlife viewing, bike and pedestrian trails, and public art and arts programming. Construction is soon to begin on waterfront trails and a two-story bird observation tour in North Park, and the final design and construction of bike and pedestrian trails, a wetland boardwalk, flexible-use lawns, a kayak and canoe launch, primary and secondary entrances, and an ecologically-sensitive parking area in East Park.

Designing the Edge

Our office supported the planning, design and construction of a portion of Harlem River Park, in partnership with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, the Harlem River Task Force and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. The task at hand was, not only to construct a portion of waterfront park and the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway for the upland underserved community and region at large, but to rebuild crumbling waterfront infrastructure with a high value-added approach. The completed portion of the park included the greenway pathway, a host of park amenities and native plantings, as well as a constructed tide pool and one of the few access points where one can get right down to the water, including, not only the ability to put in a kayak or canoe, but one of the very few opportunities along this heavily-armored, channelized river to get a boat out of the water. The seawall, itself, includes gabions filled with stone of varied shape and size with mollusk shells interspersed to foment and allow for propagation of marine habitat. Finally, hardened portions of the seawall were constituted with textured, porous surface.

The goal of the Designing the Edge approach is to improve the design of urban waterfront infrastructure within the context of site characteristics, need and opportunity to: enhance habitat value and water quality through the installation of textured surfaces with durable porous materials that foster and support estuarine life, improve water quality and improve erosion resistance; modify slope, shape and surface regularity to absorb wave/wake energy and create conditions more proximate to natural shoreline; and provide new public access opportunities. The approach brings together a team of professionals, including marine biologists and marine engineers, landscape architects and environmental artists to determine site-specific needs and opportunities, before engaging the public via design charrette to arrive at appropriate conceptual design and function. In contrast to the heavily-hardened, rigid vertical structures that characterize our urban waterfronts, the approach is to produce innovative yet practical designs for waterfront infrastructure that are replicable along our urbanized waterfronts.

Our office is supporting the design and construction of other such projects, one on the northwestern shoreline of Randall’s Island at the confluence of the East River and Harlem River (see Randall’s Island below), as well as the generation of conceptual design for a site in Hallets Cove on Astoria’s’ East River waterfront, a semi-protected embayment that may provide favorable conditions to test shallow-water habitat restoration, help mitigate water quality impact from a nearby combined sewer outfall, and provide opportunity for human-powered boat launch.

Catalyst for Neighborhood Parks

New York City’s Catalyst for Neighborhood Parks project is a park revitalization and community capacity-building initiative to connect underserved communities to their underused neighborhood parks, redevelop the neglected park facilities and improve public access. Our office funded the two initial, multi-phased Catalyst initiatives that worked with multiple waterfront communities and their parks in multiple boroughs through a series of EPF LWRP grants. According to a release by the Mayor’s Office and the City Parks Foundation in announcing the current Catalyst initiative, it was reported that Catalyst park groupings of the initial two rounds of Catalyst initiatives had experienced significant transformations. Over the previous four-year time period, the number of organizations and groups active in the parks had doubled, volunteer hours increased by 380%, attendance at free sports instruction and concerts increased by 160%, and leveraged capital investments topped $100 million – five times the original amount committed.

The current Catalyst initiative focuses on the waterfront parks of Soundview Park in the South Bronx, East River Park in lower Manhattan, and Calvert Vaux and Kaiser Parks in the Coney Island area of Brooklyn. In brief, the initiative begins with a Build Phase of identifying shared community goals, where Partnership for Parks staff (a joint program of City Parks Foundation and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation) immerse themselves in the community to support collaborative work. This is achieved through organized community events, such as community days and park cleanups, programming of arts events that broaden neighborhood awareness and participation; identifying community stakeholders and creating initial park stewardship groups; completing small-scale physical improvements; and extensive visioning and strategizing for park development, public access and long-term stewardship. The Connect Phase focuses on strengthening connections and sustaining group work to support and build capacity, as well as the expansion of physical improvements. The Sustain Phase initiates the transition of project leadership to community leaders through: planning and implementing organizational structures for long-term stewardship; strengthening communication and relationships with local and citywide decision-makers; and mobilizing to build political and municipal support, raise and leverage funds, and plan individual waterfront revitalization projects.

Randall’s Island

Our office has worked closely over the past decade with the Randall’s Island Sports Foundation, the NYC Economic Development Corporation and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation on increasing public access to developing recreational amenities on Randall’s Island, with a particular emphasis on increasing pedestrian and bicycle access to the island from the recreational underserved neighborhoods of East Harlem and the South Bronx. We also provided considerable resources to salt marsh and freshwater wetland restoration, and propagation of natural shoreline.
Currently, construction is wrapping up on the first two phases of Hell Gate Pathway, a pedestrian and bicycle path that traverses Randall's Island Park under the Hell Gate Bridge railroad trestle from the Bronx Kill at the north to Hell Gate on the island's southeastern shore. The pathway will connect to a bridge over the Bronx Kill, an at-grade bike and pedestrian pathway that will connect the developing South Bronx Greenway to Randall's Island Park.
Our office is funding another project on Randall’s Island that employs the Designing the Edge approach (see above, Designing the Edge) to design and replace a substantial length of compromised waterfront infrastructure with a hybrid, value-added solution that will be designed to absorb wake/wave energy, allow for storm surge and sea level rise, provide non-motorized small boat access and foster marine habitat that will enhance ecological function and water quality. Upland from this project area will be the construction of park open space with passive recreational amenities.

Bronx River Watershed, Greenway & Blueway

Our office has funded NYC Economic Development Corporation efforts to build new waterfront parks and portion of the South Bronx Greenway on Hunts Point, and continues to work with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, in partnership with the Bronx River Alliance, in improving the Bronx River through managing stormwater, protecting wetlands, removing invasive species and stabilizing the shoreline, watershed planning, developing the Bronx River Blueway Trail, planning for and implementing park development for the upland underserved community, and enabling passage for anadromous fish returning to spawn.

Maritime Support Services Study

Our office supported the NYC Economic Development Corporation, in partnership with the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Department of City Planning, in completing a new Maritime Support Services Location Study that inventoried and forecasted demand through 2015 for maritime industry and support services in the port of New York and affiliated New Jersey locations. Alternative solutions for projected maritime service needs were identified that will assist with land-use decision-making as anticipated redevelopment pressures increase.

Ferry Feasibility Study

A comprehensive Harbor District ferry service feasibility study is being developed to exam the recreational market throughout the District and develops profiles for proposed combined or standalone commuter and recreational ferry sites, and examines ferry services models and best practices in a comparative set of cities. Analysis will inform development of prioritization criteria by which to evaluate potential sites and corridors and potential business models for a Harbor District ferry service. A pilot East River Ferry was launched in June 2011, and numbers have thus far shattered expectations for ridership by commuters and tourists.