New York is a maritime city, after all; we have hundreds of miles of coastline, but alas a majority go unused year after year.
If redeveloped correctly, the city’s extensive, diverse waterfront spaces could become important environmental assets to their communities, and drive much-needed industrial growth.
The city’s plans for the Sunset Park waterfront in Brooklyn would accomplish both of these things, and more.
Mayor Bloomberg has committed to investing $165 million in the project - no small sum these days, given the city’s budget problems.
He believes that allocation, along with an additional $105 million provided by the federal, state and private sector, will be enough to rebuild several marine terminals, a new 22-acre park, improve industrial infrastructure and create 11,000 long term jobs.
Reactivated marine terminals, piers and the jobs that go with them would be a great boon to Sunset Park, which has been neglected by the city for years. The neighborhood stands a chance to flourish and grow, while retaining its grittier South Brooklyn flavor.
If the city partners with local community groups in designing the plan, as the mayor suggested it would do, the outcome could serve as a model for other waterfront projects across the city.
It might erase some of the bitterness over the rezoning of the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront that left many people in North Brooklyn feeling cheated by the city.
The plan, however, comes with a rather serious catch: a commitment to improving rail services that could pave the way for a renewed drive to build the Cross Harbor Freight tunnel. (At the press conference announcing the Sunset Park plan, Bloomberg spoke favorably, if briefly, of the freight tunnel project).
Opponents are raising cautionary flags of alarm. They argue that the tunnel would reduce truck traffic in other parts of the city at the expense of the outer boroughs .
A solid, well-designed overhaul of an aging, outdated industrial waterfront might come with the baggage of a highly divisive project. Both projects have their merits and issues, but hopefully in this case one doesn't work to derail the other.