A bold new vision for Flushing Waterways

A bold new vision for Flushing Waterways
Design firm Perkins+Will and Riverkeeper have created vision plan for Flushing Waterway and Creek.
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Gina Martinez

A design firm and environmentalist group have teamed up with the community to develop vision plans to clean up the city’s waterways, including Flushing Bay and Newtown Creek.

Global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will and clean water advocate Riverkeeper unveiled their “Vision Plans” to clean up both Flushing Bay and Newtown Creek, which together are known as Flushing Waterway for Community Boards and elected officials to consider. According to Perkins+Will, the new plans offer opportunities for economic growth, environmental protection and outdoor recreation for New Yorkers. The plans were created with input from local stakeholders and residents. They offer more than 135 different options to rehabilitate the neglected bodies of water and their shores.

The firm said once the plans are implemented, they will be able to restore native salt marsh habitats, spur economic growth by creating employment opportunities, and help protect the areas from future floods and rising sea levels.

Flushing Waterways span 600 acres between LaGuardia Airport, Willets Point, downtown Flushing and Flushing Meadows Corona Park, while Newtown Creek — located just across the East River from Midtown Manhattan — occupies an area of about 1,000 acres between Brooklyn and Queens. Environmental advocate group Newtown Creek Alliance teamed up with Perkins+Will and Riverkeeper to create a plan for the creek, which includes stormwater infrastructure and habitat restoration. The firm also collaborated with Guardians of Flushing Bay to come up with a plan for Flushing Waterways, which includes an ecology center and boathouse.

Queens environmentalists have been trying to restore Flushing Waterways for years. The waterways around Flushing Bay are historic salt marshes that due to years of neglect are now overflowing with pollutants. The new plan imagines a renewed waterfront destination that connects the communities of East Elmhurst, North Corona and Flushing with rapidly growing communities surrounding Flushing Bay, which will include the new and improved Willets Point and Flushing West neighborhoods.

The plan proposes habitat restoration, expansion of marshlands, a new park space for downtown Flushing, reinvestment in the historic 1964 World’s Fair Marina and a new 40,000-square-foot Queens Waterfront Exploration Center.

The “Vision Plans” were a result of more than 50 meetings and workshops with community members, in which residents exchanged ideas and contributed opinions. Perkins+WIll said through those meetings the firm was able to work and spend time in these communities and learn a lot about what makes the waterways so valuable to the its members. Mike Aziz, senior urban designer at Perkins+Will and co-leader of the planning process, said there are many economic and environmental benefits in restoring these waterways,

“Our work creates a new model for urban industrial waterways that emphasizes resilience, remediation, recreation and restoration equally.” he said.

Akila Simon, board member of Guardians of Flushing Bay, said its main mission is to renew the Flushing waterfront and make it more accessible and relevant to the broader community. Together, they came up with the Queens Water Exploration Center.

According to Simon, the center will invite active recreational use in the form of human-powered boating, cycling, running and walking, as well as an exploration of the natural environment. The spaces will also be used for learning and cultural activities. The exploration center is part of a larger “Vision Plan” for Flushing Waterways that will connect the community to the waterfront, while also restoring the natural ecology of the waterways.

“This plan, and the plans for an ecology center and boathouse, showcases not only how Flushing Waterways can become an engine of economic revitalization, but also a vital, world-class waterway.” Simon said.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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