Press Releases

Mayor Bloomberg And Speaker Quinn Unveil Comprehensive Plan For Waterfront And Waterways

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn today unveiled a sustainable blueprint for New York City’s waterfront and waterways. To reconnect New Yorkers and visitors to the water and reclaim New York City’s standing as a premier waterfront city, the Waterfront Vision and Enhancement Strategy will transform the City’s waterfront with new parks, new industrial activities and new housing, and it will capitalize on the City’s waterways to promote water-borne transportation, recreation, maritime activity and natural habitats. The plan has two components: a three-year action agenda comprised of 130 funded projects, including the development of more than 50 acres of new waterfront parks, creation of 14 new waterfront esplanades and introduction of new commuter ferry service; and the Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, a framework for the City’s 520 miles of shoreline for the next decade and beyond. The 130 action agenda projects are expected to create 13,000 construction jobs and at least 3,400 permanent maritime and industrial jobs. It is the first citywide plan for the waterfront in nearly two decades and the first ever comprehensive plan for the waterways themselves. The Mayor and Speaker were joined for the announcement at Brooklyn Bridge Park by Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel, City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden, New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez, Council Member Michael Nelson, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Region 2 Natural Resources Supervisor Steve Zahn, and Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance President Roland Lewis.

“New York City has more miles of waterfront than Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and Portland combined – but for decades, too many neighborhoods have been blocked off from it,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We have made huge strides in re-connecting communities to the waterfront, and now we launching an ambitious plan that ties those projects together into what will be one of the most sweeping transformations of any urban waterfront in the world. We will build new parks, esplanades and housing, reactivate job-creating industrial activity, introduce ferry service, clean the water, and make it easier to paddle and sail around the five boroughs. Our waterfront and waterways – what we are calling New York City’s sixth borough – are invaluable assets, and when our work is complete, New York City will again be known as one of the world’s premier waterfront cities.”

“The greatness of New York City grew directly from our connection to our water,” said Council Speaker Quinn. “But at some point in our history, we both literally and figuratively turned our back on the waterfront. Now we’ve made a decision to more fully embrace the waterfront, in a way that’s both thoughtful and strategic. That’s why in 2008 the Council passed legislation requiring that the Mayor create a waterfront plan every ten years. And the great thing about this plan is that it doesn’t just include recreation and open space, but also focuses on transportation and sustainability, as well as ideas to help preserve and grow the 13,000 maritime jobs in the five boroughs.”

Accompanied by maps, charts and illustrations, the 190-page waterfront plan – led by the Department of City Planning – presents specific strategies for improvements for each of the City’s 22 Reaches – a nautical term for a stretch of waterfront – covering 520 miles of shoreline that borders rivers, the Atlantic Ocean, inlets and bays, as well as active port areas, residential neighborhoods, wetlands and public open space. It was developed after a year-long public process that engaged New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs and yielded recommendations for every stretch of New York City’s waterfront, as well as for the waterways themselves. It builds on the City’s recent success opening up to the public miles of shoreline that had been inaccessible for decades, and supporting expansion of the maritime industry.

As required by City Council legislation, the waterfront plan was submitted to the City Council, Public Advocate, Borough Presidents and 59 Community Boards. The full plan and more information can be found at, where progress on waterfront initiatives will be tracked on an ongoing basis in keeping with the City’s mandate for transparency and accountability. The Plan was prepared in partnership with State and Federal agencies, including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Army Corps of Engineers. Much of the planning work was made possible with a grant from the New York Department of State through the Environmental Protection Fund.

As part of the City’s mission to increase water transportation, this spring new East River frequent ferry service between Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan will be launched, providing a convenient, sustainable transit option for developing communities and helping close the gap between our boroughs. Other City investments will help clean the waterways and facilitate recreational boating on the water. The plan also identifies potential strategies to increase climate resilience – the City’s ability to withstand and recover quickly from weather-related events, such as coastal storm surges and flooding. Together, the projects will advance the goals of PlaNYC – New York City’s plan for a greener, greater New York.

“New York City’s waterways have played a major role in its history and remains one of the City’s greatest assets, but over time it has become less and less a part of New Yorkers’ lives,” said Deputy Mayor Steel. “We’re committed to making it a part of New Yorkers’ lives again for recreation, transportation, jobs and housing.”

“Our water is the connective tissue between our boroughs and is, in effect, our Sixth Borough,” said Commissioner Burden. “We are now planning for our waterfront and waterways with the same intensity and passion that we have traditionally planned for our land. I am thrilled to have met with knowledgeable and passionate New Yorkers who contributed their ideas and expertise throughout almost a year of public outreach to develop this landmark plan for the future, to build on the Bloomberg administration’s mission of revitalizing the waterfront and making the water part of the everyday life of New Yorkers. We can achieve this through new City policies for the use of our Blue Network of waterways for transportation, recreation and education, for improving water quality, and for the first time addressing the challenges of global warming and sea-level rise.”

“The waterfront represents an enormous opportunity for economic growth throughout the five boroughs,” said EDC President Pinsky. “By investing in and expanding the working waterfront, we will be creating immediate job opportunities for New Yorkers as well as a source of long-term economic growth for New York City. Developing our waterfront infrastructure, so that we can expand industries like container shipping, will allow us to stay competitive with other waterfront cities around the world.”

“From Concrete Plant Park in the Bronx and Hudson River Park in Manhattan to Freshkills Park on Staten Island, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fort Totten in Queens, more New York City parks than ever now take advantage of beautiful views and increased direct access to wonderful opportunities for water sports and shoreline recreation,” said Parks Commissioner Benepe. “As the Vision 2020 strategy reclaims more waterfront for recreation, park users will canoe or kayak from more than 40 locations on the New York City Water Trail. Even those of us simply watching as we go about our busy day will feel just a little more revived and refreshed to be a part of a beautified and energized concept for urban living at its best.”

“Creating a vibrant waterfront to support residential, commercial and industrial growth critically depends on the health of New York Harbor,” said Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway. “The good news is that New York City's waterways are the healthiest they have been in a century, and Mayor Bloomberg has invested more than $7 billion – and we'll invest billions more in the coming years – to continue that progress. Sustainable investments in the City’s comprehensive waterfront plan will further improve water quality and enhance New Yorkers' quality of life for generations to come.”

“This comprehensive waterfront plan is an excellent blueprint for the advancement of New York City's maritime interests, which are critical to the economic well-being of our city and region,” said Congressman Nadler. “This plan reaffirms the City's commitment to preserving, protecting and investing in our precious maritime and industrial infrastructure, and it confirms the City's support for increasing rail freight and the efficiency of goods movement throughout the region. But, most importantly, this blueprint supports the planning and development of a major container port in Sunset Park. The full realization of Brooklyn's container capacity is essential for our region's growth and economic development, and for ensuring that the Port of New York remains the preeminent shipping hub on the eastern seaboard.”

“I can remember as a child, looking at run down, polluted areas along our city’s waterfront and wishing that something could be done to reclaim and revitalize that incredible resource,” said Waterfront Committee Chair Michael Nelson. “In the past few years we’ve taken some major steps in that direction, and this Comprehensive Waterfront Plan both coordinates and builds on all of those efforts. As Chair of the Council’s Waterfront Committee, I’m very proud to have worked with the Mayor and Speaker to develop this great plan, and in the coming months we’ll continue to work to make more pieces of the plan a reality.”

“This waterfront plan outlines a tremendous vision for a more vibrant city – one where children play in waterfront parks, commuters travel to work by ferry, and areas that long sat vacant or polluted give way to homes, businesses, and thriving industry,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “Residents of my district have a lot riding on the success of this plan, with new open space being developed, and new opportunities for waterfront transportation on the way. I look forward to working with Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and Waterfront Chair Nelson to help drive these kinds of improvements in communities around the city.”

“New York City's new waterfront plan is a turning point in how New Yorkers interact with the water, re-orienting our City and our region to the harbor and waterways,” said Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance President Roland Lewis. “We have the greatest harbor in the world. We now have a plan to connect our neighborhoods to the water that surrounds them for recreation, for education for transportation and for jobs. The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance and its 507 partners were proud to contribute to the comprehensive plan's creation and, more important, we stand ready to work with the City toward its implementation.”

Launched in April 2010, the waterfront planning effort included dozens of City, State and federal agencies as well as a host of waterfront experts and advocates who served on a waterfront advisory committee. The plan was formulated with input from New Yorkers in all five boroughs who attended multiple public planning workshops and submitted hundreds of comments online.

It revolves around eight overarching goals and outlines both programmatic and site-specific strategies to achieve them. A sampling of the projects and strategies follows:

1. Expand Public Access to the Waterfront with new and expanded parks in all five boroughs:

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Develop/acquire more than 50 acres of new waterfront parks (various dates).
  • Expand and enhance 10 existing waterfront parks (various dates).
  • Develop or initiate 14 new greenways and esplanades (various dates).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Extend borough-wide waterfront greenways in all five boroughs.
  • Pursue alternatives to the zoning requirement for opaque fences at maritime uses.
  • Establish street-end parks to provide access to the waterfront at sites where it is limited.

2. Enhance the “Blue Network” and promote water-borne transportation and recreation:

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Pilot commuter ferry service on the East River (2011).
  • Establish design guidelines for best human-powered boat launch types and features (2013).
  • Expand launch platform for canoes and small boats at Hunts Point-Riverside Park (2013).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Improve connections between on-land transit and ferries, such as MetroCard integration.
  • Expand and improve the New York City Water Trail for human-powered boating.
  • Encourage public boathouses and boat storage containers at launch sites.

3. Support the Working Waterfront by spurring new industrial, job-generating uses:

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Renovate of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal to receive ships and barges (2012).
  • Complete environmental review of the New York Container Terminal expansion (2012).
  • Improve the 65th Street Rail Yard in Sunset Park Brooklyn (2013).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Explore moving express-air cargo by water, potentially with airport passenger ferry service.
  • Establish maritime “hubs” to support workboat operations in geographically strategic areas.
  • Establish guidelines for new developments near industrial areas to minimize impacts.

4. Enliven the Waterfront with a range of uses integrated with upland neighborhoods:

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Facilitate 21 waterfront development projects, spurring private investment of $150 million.
  • Create uniform landing protocol to facilitate the docking of historic vessels (2012).
  • Begin construction of housing, parks and a school at Hunter’s Point South, Queens (2013).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Conduct citywide study to identify buildings and structures of historic significance.
  • Establish new policies to protect historic resources along the waterfront.
  • Consider requiring water-dependent uses in lease agreements on some City-owned land.

5. Restore the Natural Waterfront and protect wetlands and shorefront habitats:

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Implement $50 million in waterfront ecological restoration projects (2013).
  • Restore tidal wetlands and marshland at parks in the Bronx and Brooklyn (various dates).
  • Indentify opportunities for large-scale oyster restoration (2013).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Create and expand shorelines, shallows and intertidal areas.
  • Concentrate habitat creation and enhancement in protected ecological complexes.
  • Improve habitat for oysters, fish and other aquatic species.

6. Improve Water Quality to support public recreation and natural habitats:

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Make $1.6 billion in upgrades to wastewater treatment plants (various dates).
  • Implement $650 million in gray infrastructure (various dates).
  • Invest $140 million to enhance drainage by acquiring land in Staten Island (various dates).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Improve pathogen and dissolved oxygen levels by reducing combined sewer outflows.
  • Reduce nitrogen discharges through improvements to wastewater treatment plants.
  • Streamline design and permitting processes for the incorporation of green infrastructure.

7. Improve Government Oversight of on-water and waterfront related regulation:

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Establish In-Water Permitting Task Force to reform regulations (2011).
  • Create a one-stop shop to help navigate the permitting process for in-water construction.
  • Develop a wetlands mitigation bank and/or an in-lieu fee program (2012).

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Create design guidelines for piers and bulkheads to accommodate multiple vessel types.
  • Design bulkheads and piers with accommodations for getting in and out of the water.

8. Increase Climate Resilience to help the City better withstand coastal storms and flooding:

Three-year Action Agenda Sampling:

  • Update PlaNYC to establish a strategic planning process for climate resilience (2011).
  • Work with FEMA to update the Flood Insurance Rate Maps to reflect current risks (2012).
  • Revise NYC Coastal Storm Evacuation Zone maps based on updated data.

Vision 2020 Strategy Sampling:

  • Identify resources to promote research and modeling of flood and storm surge risks.
  • Consider zoning changes to remove disincentives to enhanced flood protection of buildings.
  • Create an inventory of adaption strategies with potential applicability to New York City.

The waterfront plan also includes the implementation of NYHarborWay, an initiative of the Bloomberg Administration to promote New York Harbor as a major recreational destination for New Yorkers and visitors. Spearheaded by NYC & Company, the initiative will connect eight major waterfront points of interest by ferry or bike greenways. The City will develop a cohesive programming, marketing and communications platform which will drive visitation to the eight waterfront sites. The destinations are Brooklyn Bridge Park, Governors Island, Hudson River Park, The Battery, Ellis Island, Statue Liberty Island, the East River Esplanade and Liberty State Park.

The new plan builds on the Bloomberg Administration’s efforts over the past nine years to increase access to and jobs on the waterfront. Since 2002, the City has acquired nearly 400 acres of waterfront land for new parks and has rezoned more than 700 acres of largely vacant or underutilized waterfront land to create new housing and public waterfront access. New York City’s maritime industry remains strong, supporting more than 31,000 jobs.

New York City Economic Development Corporation is the City's primary vehicle for promoting economic growth in each of the five boroughs. NYCEDC's mission is to stimulate growth through expansion and redevelopment programs that encourage investment, generate prosperity and strengthen the City's competitive position. NYCEDC serves as an advocate to the business community by building relationships with companies that allow them to take advantage of New York City's many opportunities. Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, or visit our blog to learn more about NYCEDC projects and initiatives.


Press Release Subscription

Subscribe to have the latest NYCEDC press releases delivered to your inbox.

Contact Info

Stu Loeser/Andrew Brent
(212) 788-2958 

Jamie McShane/Nicole Kolinsky
(212) 788-7116 

Rachele Raynoff/Jovana Rizzo
City Planning
(212) 720-3471

David Lombino/Julie Wood
(212) 312-3523