By Rich Bockmann
A new plan to improve the East River waterfront in western Queens was unveiled last week to a wave of approval from the community that helped develop it.
“A waterfront vision by the community and for the community” was the mantra of the two groups that had worked for two years to develop a plan that presented a series of ideas on how to develop and link the assets along the shores of Long Island City and Astoria.
“This is one of the most amazing stretches of waterfront in the city. It’s rare in that it’s not cut off by railroads and highways,” said Andy Stone, director of the city Program at the Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization. Industry, utilities and — in the absence of manufacturing — residential development have left only 27 percent of the 8 miles of waterfront from Newtown Creek to Bowery Bay currently accessible to the public.
“People want more connections along the waterfront and to the waterfront from inland areas, said Ilana Teitel of Green Shores NYC, the community that worked with the Trust.
“We held seven hyperlocal, community visioning sessions. You guys really are the authors of this plan,” she told the enthusiastic members of the community who had gathered at the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City to witness the unveiling of the plan.
Teitel said the broad themes that came out of those meetings were to create a user-friendly, 21st-century waterfront that is connected, healthy and vibrant.
Seven sites — the Queensbridge Park seawall, the Pulaski Bridge, the stretch of waterfront from Rainey Park to Hallets Cove, the Hallets Cove pier, the Two Coves Corridor, the Astoria Park shoreline and Luyster Creek — were cited as areas in need of improvements ranging from the creation of a continuous and landscaped greenway to transferring lands to the city Parks Department in order to provide access.
A healthy and vibrant waterfront, Teitel said, is one that “recognizes the East River as an educational and recreational resource.” She said a modern park should include better amenities such as picnic tables, public art installations and affordable and healthy concessions.
With the plan complete, Stone said now is the time to initiate the action agenda by using the clout of the community involvement to build political support.
“It’s a hard time to come up with a plan and say we need funding for big capital projects,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to accomplish an agenda like this.”
Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said she applauded both organizations and that the challenge would be to coordinate the plan among the various interests involved: those of private organizations and the different city agencies.
Richard Khuzami, the Parks and Culture Committee chairman of Community Board 1, said he had participated fully in the visioning sessions and that the board would most likely take the issue up in the beginning of next year.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.