From the Gotham Gazette:
Vision 2020, New York City's plan for its waterfront, seems to offer something for every New Yorker: promenades along the shore, bucolic wetlands with lots of fish and wildlife, ferries and kayaks, industrial jobs, and new condos with waterfront views.
Looming behind the plan's picturesque images of clear skies and kayakers, however, are the waterfront views from prime real estate locations. Behind the frothy rhetoric designed to garner public support, Vision 2020 is really a business plan.
Overall the plan envisions parks and natural habitats. It also anticipates creating infrastructure that would allow industrial areas -- smaller than they once were -- to thrive. And it calls for new housing "for people of diverse income levels."
Public access, natural restoration, industrial and commercial development – all reflect the interests of those who own land on and near the waterfront. Public promenades and parks on the waterfront will be valuable amenities for luxury towers, as will the "panoramic water views of great beauty."
The few natural areas in the plan are to be in locations that are not prime targets for large-scale development such as Jamaica Bay and along the Arthur Kill on Staten Island. They will be preserved as museum-like exceptions along the 578-mile coastline that is being masterfully engineered for the fun and profit of humans. The industry and public utilities on the waterfront will be allowed to stay where they are, although the plan does not address the negative environmental impacts of these industrial areas on surrounding communities.
In short, the city’s long-term plan for the waterfront, a revised version of the original 1992 plan, continues the trend toward conversion of the coastline from a working waterfront to prime real estate. It is perhaps fitting that the main feature in The New York Times about the city’s waterfront plan appeared in the Real Estate section.
Even with construction stalled by the recession, the article said, "The groundwork is being laid for the next great phase of waterfront development in the city." Casting a covetous eye at the Queens and Brooklyn waterfront, Jeffrey Levine of Levine Builders told the Times, "It is a great opportunity to buy land and warehouse it for development."
The 2020 plan has one important new element –- the plan to literally dive in the water. At the waterfront alliance gala, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Steel introduced this new element by calling for development not just on land but in the water. Steel said, "The waterfront is the sixth borough" -- just as important as the other boroughs. City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden chimed in, saying, "The water is the heart of the city," a new territory to be explored. "Now is the time," she said, "to go from the water's edge into the water."
The plan envisions the waters surrounding the city to be so clean that people can swim, fish and boat in them. And it claims that more ferries and boat traffic are both possible and necessary.
Developers have sought for decades, to build out into the water using deep pilings and new buildings on piers. That also could be what going "into the water" means.
A recent show at the Museum of Modern Art proposed alternatives to address sea level rise that included salvaging waterfront real estate by essentially making it "waterproof." Is the waterfront plan helping to encourage such dubious and expensive?