City to update waterfront

City to update waterfront
Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

Representatives from the Department of City Planning presented a year-long plan to update the city’s Waterfront Revitalization Program to the Queens Borough Board Monday night, but City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) thought it would take longer than expected.

“I think it’s going to take more than a year to go through the process,” Koo said.

Michael Marella, of City Planning’s Open Space Division, said his department was revising the program to bring it in line with Vision 2020, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s (D-Manhattan) blueprint for the city’s shorelines.

“We do need to look at our waterfronts,” Borough President Helen Marshall said. “We have neglected them.”

Marella said since its inception in 1982, the Waterfront Revitalization Program has been a set of policies against which new property built along the waterfront must be measured.

“This is really a regulatory tool,” Marella said.

City Planner Mary Kimball said the federal government dictates that every state must come up with a plan for its waterfronts, and New York state delegates its planning to local jurisdictions.

The Waterfront Revitalization Plan was last updated in 2002, and the goals for the latest revision are to increase public access to the waterfront, enliven the waterfront, create a working waterfront, improve water quality, restore the natural waterfront, enhance’s the public’s experience of the waterways, improve government oversight and increase the area’s resistance to climate change.

To do this the department is revising the program’s policies for residential, industrial and maritime development; reviewing how it promotes waterway usage and ecological resources; looking into new ways to improve water quality and minimize flooding and erosion damage; managing solid and hazardous waste; creating public spaces on the waterfront; seeking input into wind power projects and using historic sources such as old ships.

“This is something that people are really excited about,” Kimball said.

She said the program also maps two areas of special significance that require developers to comply with additional policies. The first are called Significant Maritime and Industrial Areas, and in Queens that covers Newtown Creek. The second are ecological resources known as Special Natural Waterfront Areas, which in Queens include Jamaica Bay and the East River and Long Island Sound.

Kimball said the plans would be submitted to city community boards, the borough presidents and the borough boards in February. After it goes through the City Planning Commission, the department expects to submit it to the City Council for review December 2012.

Koo said he found the plan ambitious but thought it needed a lot of community input since every area has specific needs.

State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Howard Beach), whose district is surrounded by water, said all options need to be explored to protect the waterfront.

“This is a good step in moving in the right direction,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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