Solar 2 design released

This rendering, by Bjark Ingels Group (BIG), shows how the replacement building for Solar One will look, complete with a kayak launch accessible at Stuyvesant Cove Park.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Project architects have released renderings for Solar One’s new building that will be replacing the environmental organization’s original structure along the East River across from Peter Cooper Village within the next two years. The Economic Development Corporation, the city agency overseeing the project, presented the plan to Community Board 6’s land use and waterfront committee on January 22.

Although the project has been referred to as “Solar 2,” the new building will fully replace the organization’s original structure and the renderings show a “Solar One” sign on the building’s western face. According to the presentation, construction on Solar 2 is expected to be completed before the start of 2019 and construction on the additional flood protection in Stuyvesant Cove Park, which is part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project, won’t begin until 2021 or 2022. The ESCR project includes a combination of berms and flood walls to protect the nearby neighborhoods from a possible flood event, and since Solar One’s building is expected to be operational before construction begins for the ESCR, that flood protection will be built around the new structure.

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Boaters float ideas for East River Waterfront

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.  (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Local waterfront organizations attended CB6’s Land Use and Waterfront committee meeting to provide options for East River access.

At the committee’s October meeting, City Council member Dan Garodnick called on community members and organizations to come up with suggestions for how to use the $1 million in funding that his office has secured for East River access so representatives from waterfront groups returned in November to offer their proposals.
Stuyvesant Cove Park has served as a launching point for kayakers for the last three summers and representatives from the Watertrail Association, Long Island City Boathouse, Urban Swim, the Lower East Side Ecology Center and Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance have been working to provide easier access to recreational boating on the East Side.

The area of the East River around Stuyvesant Cove Park has a natural beach, which has made it an adequate launching site for kayaks when the tide is low, but one of the main problems is access to the beach itself.
During the summer when free kayaking events are available, there is usually a cooler for kayakers to step over and a ladder to get down to the beach, making it difficult and precarious to get to the boats.

“It gives people the impression that they’re doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” Nancy Brous, of the Watertrail Association, added.

Ted Gruber, a volunteer with the Long Island City Boathouse, was skeptical that any of the proposals would be implemented by next season and suggested that an interim solution be used in the meantime.
“It would be a lot better if we had an opening in the fence we could use to get to the beach,” he said. “This is something we think could be achieved before the next season.”

Brous outlined the plans for the eventual kayak launch that would potentially be functional by the summer of 2016 and which would include permanent storage for boats, a floating dock and educational space.
Gruber emphasized that storage space for boats is crucial because it increases the number of volunteer hours to have to transport the boats back and forth between other storage facilities and the water.
Steven Leslie, a resident of East 24th Street and Second Avenue, created a Stuy Cove Kayaking listserv and has been working on programming to get residents involved with the water. He said that the educational space is a key part of getting children and students interested in the water quality and environment.

“We could liaise with local schools because the park is already a place where a lot of students come for educational activities,” he said.

The committee ultimately proposed a resolution to support the plans for a floating dock and a 3,000 s/f structure with an educational component, as well as the interim solution of moving the gate to make the beach more accessible.

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.”

Up the river, with paddles and kayaks

A kayaking event held at Stuyvesant Cove Park last Saturday was a hit with neighborhood residents. Photo by Wendy-Lynn McClean/Urban Swim

A kayaking event held at Stuyvesant Cove Park last Saturday was a hit with neighborhood residents.
Photo by Wendy-Lynn McClean/Urban Swim

By Sabina Mollot

Who needs the beach when you have the East River?

Last Saturday, neighborhood residents headed out to Stuyvesant Cove Park for a free kayaking event on the river, the second such event to take place since planning of the East River Blueway project got underway. Though this recreational event was unaffiliated with that plan, Deanne Draeger of the East 13th Street based organization Urban Swim said the goal is essentially the same, which is to get New Yorkers out onto a clean, safe waterway.

The first kayaking event at Stuyvesant Cove took place last August, and like this one, was a hit, with neighborhood residents of all ages, many of whom had never gone boating before, lining up to use the kayaks. According to Solar One’s figures, there were around 200 participants.

“For a lot of people it was their first time ever, so it was a very interesting thing to be able to do,” said Draeger. “You don’t need experience and we provided all the safety equipment. Some people were nervous, but when you get on the water it’s incredible and you’re paddling around in the New York Harbor.”

Along with Urban Swim, the afternoon activity was also made possible by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, NYCEDC and Long Island City Community Boat Club. The organization has also fostered relationships with other organizations that have supported its efforts including Solar One, the Lower East Side Ecology Center and the NY Water Trail Association.

In addition to hosting events aimed at getting people into the water, including the occasional swim between Stuyvesant Cove and Coney Island, Urban Swim also does weekly testing of the water to determine its cleanliness. Fortunately, according to Draeger, most of the time, the water’s fine, at least for swimming and other activities.

“It’s definitely a lot cleaner than it has been,” she said, noting that the practice of dumping into rivers by many companies “has been curtailed.”

The only exception tends to be after heavy rainfalls, thanks to an antiquated sewer system. (At that time, the river can see what’s known as combined sewage overflow, which is extra storm water that can’t be treated fast enough by sewage plants.)

Draeger said Urban Swim tests at around 30 sites in Manhattan and then publishes its results.

“We’re very grassroots about it,” she said. “A bunch of us test in different locations.”

Urban Swim has been around since 2010, having gotten started after Draeger organized a swim for herself from Stuyvesant Cove Park to Steeple Chase in Coney Island, Brooklyn. When she did it again the following year and then the next, she invited others to join her and has since been organizing other events on the water.

If anyone thinks they can handle a similar swim, the next opportunity will be on August 10, when the group once again heads from Stuy Cove to Coney Island. Another swim, from the Statue of Liberty to One World Trade Center, is scheduled for September 14. There will also be another kayaking day at the Cove set for August 17. For more information about upcoming events, visit the “Urban Swim” Facebook page.








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.