Possible changes to waterfront floated

Kayakers paddle around at an event at Stuyvesant Cove Park in June.  At a recent Community Board 6 meeting, Council Member Dan Garodnick answered questions from community residents about ideas for improvements at Stuyvesant Cove Park and said available funds would be most conducive to a kayak launch. Other suggestions for utilizing the East River waterfront were also brought up. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Kayakers paddle around at an event at Stuyvesant Cove Park in June. At a recent Community Board 6 meeting, Council Member Dan Garodnick answered questions from community residents about ideas for improvements at Stuyvesant Cove Park and said available funds would be most conducive to a kayak launch. Other suggestions for utilizing the East River waterfront were also brought up. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community Board 6’s Land Use and Waterfront Committee discussed some of the imminent changes planned for the East River, in the context of both the Blueway Plan to provide more access to the river for recreational activities and the proposed renovations of the Skyport Marina at the committee’s monthly meeting last Wednesday.

City Council Member Dan Garodnick was on hand at the meeting to collect input from the committee on how the community would like to use the $1.5 million in funds that his office has allocated for Stuyvesant Cove Park.

A number of volunteers and staff members from organizations such as Long Island Community Boathouse and Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance attended the meeting. Rob Buchanan from the NYC Watertrail Association said that he and his colleagues found out about the meeting too late to prepare a presentation with ideas and would be willing to come back to the meeting next month, but LIC Boathouse volunteer Ted Gruber had a preliminary suggestion.

“You already have a kayak launch there but there’s a fence in the way,” he noted. “It would only take about $5,000 and what you could do is put a gate and a couple of steps before it gets warm next year, because who knows when the rest of this would happen.”

The council member acknowledged that there are interim solutions that could be considered, but he is optimistic that the project will be completed. What that project is specifically, he said, is up to the ideas from the community, but he feels that the money available is most conducive to a kayak launch.

Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

According to calculations that Garodnick got from the Economic Development Corporation, expanding a beach in the space would be about $7 million, which would be more than an ecodock and kayak launch. An ecodock would also be costly at $4 to $5 million, he said, including an additional $500,000 per year for dredging because the water is too shallow, but that option would be revenue-generating because it would allow historic vessels to dock there.

EDC’s Senior Vice President of Asset Management Rich Cote was at the meeting to address additional questions about the proposed renovations to the Skyport Marina and a number of committee members expressed concern about the changes, especially in light of the discussion about increasing recreational activity on the East River not far from where the marina is situated. Cote had said that the bulk of the work planned was focused on maintenance and improvements to the infrastructure, and one of the major concerns from committee members was the possible addition of more space for larger seaplanes that was included in the presentation EDC gave at the previous meeting.

“A new seaplane dock is not maintenance,” argued Committee Vice Chair Ellen Imbimbo. “If you want to have the discussion on what the river is for, like those uses that Councilmember Garodnick spoke to earlier, then a seaplane dock seems contradictory to all of our discussions of making the river accessible so we can all enjoy it. I don’t think it’s about noise. It’s about how we view the East River: for fun and swimming or for more seaplanes.”

Imbimbo added that the Community Board has a history of opposing seaplanes, noting that committee member Lou Sepersky found a CB6 resolution from 1999 that opposed seaplanes and the community board struggled with the city over the heliport at East 34th Street when that was new to the area.

Cote responded that there were no specific plans for larger seaplanes to be docked at the marina “in the near future” and that they were only creating a place for seaplanes to come in, but committee members were not appeased by the implication that larger seaplanes could technically be docking at the marina at some point.

“There is nothing in this for the community,” said Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal. “The plan has nothing for the community except noise and problems.”

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Community meets on future of Stuy Cove

A kayaker enjoys Stuy Cove Park (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

A kayaker enjoys Stuy Cove Park (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

 

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Local residents, kayakers, environmental education advocates and elected officials gathered at Baruch College last Thursday to discuss plans for on-water access at Stuyvesant Cove Park. The meeting was hosted by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, which worked with other organizations to provide free kayaking in the park for the last two summers.
MWA President and CEO Roland Lewis led the discussion and both Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and City Councilmember Dan Garodnick, who are sponsors of the East River Blueway plan, were on hand at the meeting to show their support for increased access to the water. Garodnick’s office has allocated $1 million in funding for a kayak and canoe launch at Stuy Cove, and the plans for these funds, among other proposals about water access in Stuy Cove, were the topic the meeting.
Lewis noted that the MWA believes open waters should be used for three basic purposes: education, recreational boating and historic ships. The purpose of the meeting on Thursday was to explore possibilities for expanding all of these options, but while Solar 1 has been able to conduct at least some educational programming and kayaking has been planned despite needing a ladder to get to the water, the historic shipping community has been left in dire straits.
“I’m standing here without a place for my 160-foot boat for the season, which starts in three weeks,” said Tom Berton of Manhattan by Sail. “One of the problems is access. These boats need to be able to side load and there are very few docks that can do that.”
There is an eco dock in Bay Ridge that can accommodate historic ships which is maintained by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance and Berton said that the historic shipping community is very supportive of the alliance’s initiative to create more on water access at Stuyvesant Cove because it could create more space for these ships that have nowhere to dock.
A teacher from the New York Harbor School was at the meeting to advocate for educational programming and an eco dock would facilitate that. “Freshmen from the school come out to Stuyvesant Cove Park for a full day and do water quality testing and an eco dock affords some of that,” she said.
An eco dock is a kind of floating dock connected to a pier and moves with the tide. Such a dock would be ideal for Berton’s purposes and would also be able to accommodate smaller boats, although Graeme Birchall, president of Downtown Boathouse, advocated for a different tack.
“I don’t like any of the eco docks that I’ve seen,” he said. “What we need is viable access for a large number of beginner users. The only place I’ve seen that successfully is at Brooklyn Bridge Park and in Hoboken, with a sandy beach.”
One attendee at the meeting asked about places along the water to relax but Lewis noted that plans thus far are primarily for transient boat use. Another question was raised about the possibility of swimming in the river. Lewis said that there have been plans proposed that would allow such a thing, such as a project on Kickstarter that created a pool with a filtration system, but he said that it’s unlikely the Blueway plans would include something like that.
Lewis said that the $1 million in capital funding will get the project started but he noted that the community will still have to figure out where the funds will come from to maintain and operate it. Lewis added that the next step is to give the feedback from this meeting to the city’s Economic Development Corporation, as well as talk with the involved elected officials to figure out the best route with the community board on opening a dock.

 

Hurricane Sandy: A look back

It’s hard to believe it’s been exactly a year since Hurricane Sandy battered and in some cases destroyed entire neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey. Manhattan fared better though it certainly wasn’t spared; repairs are still being made around the city including in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.

One year later, a plan is in place for the “East River Blueway,” which would help protect the East Side waterfront from the Brooklyn Bridge to 38th Street from future disasters via salt marshes and beaches, and Con Ed has recently announced improvements to its substations to help prevent future blackouts (and explosions).

Below are some photos that were published in Town & Village after the superstorm that were taken on the night Sandy hit or within the next few days.

14th Street between Avenues B and C (Photographer unknown)

14th Street between Avenues B and C (Photographer unknown)

14th Street and Avenue C (Photographer unknown)

14th Street and Avenue C (Photographer unknown)

One of many tree casualties in the neighborhood, this one was found at 23rd Street and Avenue C. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

One of many tree casualties in the neighborhood, this one was found at 23rd Street and Avenue C. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Damaged car in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Ingrid Devita)

Damaged car in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Ingrid Devita)

The cleanup effort begins in Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Ingrid Devita)

The cleanup effort begins in Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Ingrid Devita)

National Guardsmen give Council Member Dan Garodnick a demonstration on how to prepare packaged meals that were distributed to residents. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

National Guardsmen give Council Member Dan Garodnick a demonstration on how to prepare packaged meals that were distributed to residents. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

Downed tree in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Marilyn Pascarelli)

Downed tree in Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Marilyn Pascarelli)

See even more post-storm photos here, and in case you missed it, here’s Town & Village’s update on the status of repairs at the buildings in hard-hit Peter Cooper Village.

 

Op-Ed: The East River Blueway: A model for all five boroughs

By Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer and State Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh

Plans for the East River Blueway include a footbridge that would also serve as a seawall. (Rendering by  WXY Architecture + Urban Design)

Plans for the East River Blueway include a footbridge that would also serve as a seawall. (Rendering by WXY Architecture + Urban Design)

As New York City recovers from Hurricane Sandy, communities in all five boroughs are understandably focused on repairing waterfront neighborhoods that were hit by historic flooding. But we must also ensure that these recovery efforts protect our city against the next big storm and other threats to our coastal communities as the climate changes and sea levels rise.

That’s the philosophy and overriding goal of the recently unveiled East River Blueway Plan, which our offices began developing in 2010. We hoped to redesign an often forgotten stretch of our East Side waterfront, from the Brooklyn Bridge to East 38th Street. Our objective was to open up the long-neglected area, creating beachfront access, recreational activities, tree-lined walkways, and other amenities that would bring people closer to the water. But we also knew that we had to protect this low-lying area from storms and flooding.

When Hurricane Sandy hit, it confirmed our worst fears about the need to plan differently for the future. And it strengthened our resolve, because New York City cannot be a place where people’s lives and livelihoods are threatened by a storm, no matter how powerful. Now that the winds have died and the waters have receded, we must get down to the job of making our coastal communities more resilient, through better infrastructure and ecological features that provide natural protection from flooding.

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East River Blueway plan calls for storm-protected, greener waterfront

ConEd after

A rendering depicts the East River waterfront after the addition of wetlands and trees.
Renderings courtesy of WXY Architecture + Urban Designs

By Sabina Mollot

Last Thursday, a plan was announced for the redevelopment of the East River waterfront from the Brooklyn Bridge to 38th Street, which would not only add a number of recreational water-related activities for area residents but also protect the East Side from a future Sandy-like disaster.

The plan, which has been in the works for over a year through a study conducted by Borough President Scott Stringer and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, not to mention the input of dozens of agencies and community groups, has yet to be formally discussed in detail.

However, some of the major aspects of the project, which could cost “in the tens of millions,” said Stringer, have already been provided for, such as $3.5 million allocated by the borough president for the addition of wetlands, specifically salt marshes, to spots along the riverfront.

The man-made wetlands would be extended from the shoreline and serve a few purposes. One is to add drainage under the FDR Drive to prevent flooding like that experienced during Sandy in the event of another storm. Other functions of the wetlands would be to help improve the overall quality of the water in the river and to encourage pedestrian access to the water.

“With this blueprint what we’re doing is opening up the Lower East Side waterfront,” said Stringer, “to amenities and beaches.”

Slide 1

This is an image of the proposed Blueway footbridge and storm surge barrier, looking north toward Stuyvesant Town and Stuy Cove. In addition to providing greater pedestrian connectivity, the bridge would also serve as a flood barrier for the Con Ed steam plant.

The salt marshes would be placed along the areas from the Brooklyn Bridge to Rutgers Slip and Stuyvesant Cove to around East 14th Street. They would improve water quality by helping to absorb some of the combined sewer overflow, which has a habit of showing up in the river at certain points after heavy rainfalls. Renderings for the plan, created by W X Y architecture + urban design, also show a number of new trees lining the area of what’s being called the East River Blueway.

Other parts of the plan for the Blueway include transforming the roof of the Skyport Garage into a garden and recreational area with some sort of food service and opening a boat launch on a floating dock for kayaks and other man-powered boats by Stuyvesant Cove Park as well as a kayak launch by the Brooklyn Bridge.

According to Kavanagh, the boat launches would actually be one of the less expensive aspects of the plan though it’s already proved to be a popular one. Last August, a kayak launch was organized at Stuyvesant Cove Park that was a huge hit with area residents. The event didn’t happen randomly though.

boat launch

Man-powered boat launches would be part of the Blueway plan by the Brooklyn Bridge and Stuyvesant Cove Park.

“It was partially intended to be a demonstration of the demand for that kind of thing,” said Kavanagh, who was there participating. “It was great to see people lining up all day to get kayaks.”

The kayaks would be included in the floating dock feature.

The plan also calls for an elevated footbridge to be built at 14th Street and the FDR Drive by the Con Ed steam plant. This would eliminate what’s become known as the “choke point,” where the foot and bike path is at its narrowest — four feet and six inches. It will also serve as a water barrier that, as it turns out, Con Ed needs if there’s a storm surge in order to prevent blackouts in the area.

This would probably be one of the more expensive projects to execute, but also one of the most necessary, said Kavanagh, if just to relieve traffic at the choke point. “As we continue to encourage waterfront projects, you get more people into this street,” he said.

As for the proposal for the Blueway, Stringer said over 40 stakeholders have been consulted so far from Con Ed to various city and state departments to elected officials to tenant groups like the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village and Waterside Tenants Associations and the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association. The Lower East Side Ecology Center and Community Boards 3 and 6 have also been involved and are considered community partners. There will also, Stringer noted, be many more opportunities for the community to weigh in, including in a few weeks time when more details are rolled out. The borough president and comptroller hopeful, who announced the plan in his state of the borough address, added that he also thought of the Blueway as “a model for the whole East Side and the whole city.

“Some projects will happen sooner rather than later, but look at what we have changed on the West Side waterfront,” he said. “We should start to do that on the East Side. It’s not fancy stuff. It’s priority.”

Stringer added that he wasn’t too worried about securing the funds for the project, despite its hefty estimated price tag. Compared to the over $60 billion in Sandy aid that’s become available and the billions in infrastructure that would be protected, “It’s really pennies on the dollar,” he said.

Kavanagh agreed about the funding, noting that the plan was still just that, in the idea phase, for the longterm vision of the East Side waterfront.

“We’re not saying, ‘Build it tomorrow,” he said. “Our goal is to have a comprehensive plan that looks at ways the community would like to use the river and protects the ecology of the river.”

The Blueway follows another proposed huge project that envisions a greener waterfront, the East River Greenway plan. The Greenway project includes expanding the United Nations campus and building a promenade from 38th to 60th Streets.

Letters to the Editor, Feb. 14

Barriers blocked access on East 20th Street

To the Editor:

On the fifteenth of January when I went downstairs to find my car, parked in its usual place, the loading zone in front of 430 and 440 East 20th Street with my handicapped permit prominently displayed, it was all alone in the always full area and adorned with a notice giving the usual threats, towing etc. Large wooden blocks had been placed along with metal gates the whole length of the area from the parking garage to the corner Loop exit.

Since I am in my eighties and use a walker, having my car so available is extremely important for the conduct of my life. The barriers have forced me to park at some distance and to struggle along, sometimes with a shopping bag to get into my building.

Finally, since no sort of work is being visibly conducted I called the management office and was told that something or other will be done to my building at some future date. The supervisor I spoke to seemed rather confused about the project. I asked why they have taken the space two weeks ahead of the actual work, causing myself and other residents, some in wheelchairs, extraordinary problems. The five or six doctors’ offices in my building are surely receiving complaints from patients keeping their appointments while family members wait in cars. As for the delivery trucks, including the USPS one can easily imagine a lot of strong language in reaction to the loss of loading zone.

How long will this outrage go on until it gets worse?

H. Zwerling, ST

This letter was forwarded by T&V to a rep for management last Tuesday and the author said work began on 440 E. 20th later that day. CWCapital spokesperson Kara Krippen said the work was being done on the 20th Street Loop to stay in compliance with Local Law 11, which relates to facade inspections.

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