Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, in his final State of the Borough Address, unveiled a forthcoming plan Thursday promoting greater access to the East River from the Brooklyn Bridge to East 38th Street, while also creating new fortifications and infrastructure to protect the borough against the next big storm. The plan, developed in partnership with Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, was initiated in 2010, long before Sandy devastated New York City.
The Borough President said his office is allocating $3.5 million to help launch the East River Blueway Project, which he called a model of community engagement for rebuilding other storm-damaged areas. The plan was developed in partnership with Manhattan Community Boards 3 and 6, the Lower East Side Ecology Center, a design team at W X Y architecture + urban design, 40 community-based organizations and local elected officials. It is funded by a grant from the New York State Department of State and generated with extraordinary community input and numerous public meetings.
“What we have created here is a model that not only helps communities to re-imagine their waterfronts, but also helps to safeguard them at the same time,” Borough President Stringer said Thursday in a speech at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “In the end, this is a roadmap to recovery built by the community and for the community.”
The Borough President recounted heavy storm damage to this area – including flooding of the FDR Drive and explosions that shut down the Con Ed plant at East 14th street, plunging Lower Manhattan into darkness – and outlined proposals to better protect the city from future storms.
The plan’s formal release is set for later this month in conjunction with community partners, but the Borough President tonight released a series of renderings that outline key components of the plan, images of which can be found here:
- Where there is now a thin concrete bulkhead beneath the FDR Drive from the Brooklyn Bridge to Rutgers Slip, the plan would extend protective wetlands from the shore, and add drainage under the highway to absorb and re-direct the next great surge. Similar wetlands are proposed in Stuyvesant Cove, around East 14th Street.
- Where there is now a narrow, inaccessible beach below the Brooklyn Bridge, there would be an active waterfront destination that also fortifies the shoreline.
- Where the Con Ed plant now stands exposed at East 14th Street, right at the water’s edge, the plan would create a new, green pedestrian bridge that could also serve as a sturdy flood wall.
“Of course, the Blueway must be part of a larger, regional solution to protect our city,” the Borough President said. “But as we now look to rebuild Red Hook and Coney Island in Brooklyn, Far Rockaway in Queens and the devastated shores of Staten Island, the Blueway offers a model of regional planning and engagement.”
“In the face of the ravages of Sandy that we experienced so recently and are still recovering from, the Blueway Plan that I join Borough President Stringer in announcing today presents an incredibly important vision of the East Side as a vibrant, sustainable riverfront community,” said Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh who commissioned the Plan with the Borough President and helped secure State funding for it. “We have engaged our community in a focused conversation to identify a comprehensive set of ecological improvements and infrastructure projects that recognize the river as a source of real risks to be managed but also as a great asset for recreation and open space.”
“This bold and transformative Blueway Plan will enhance access to a magnificent stretch of waterfront for both residents and tourists to enjoy, which will help boost the local economy,” said New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales. “The Department of State is committed to helping rebuild communities and making New York a more resilient State.”
In developing the Blueway report, the Borough President’s Office consulted government agencies including NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, NYC Department of Transportation, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, NYC Economic Development Corporation, NYC Department of City Planning and Con Edison. Over 40 stakeholder organizations participated in formulating the plan including settlement houses, tenant associations, environmental groups, waterfront advocates, neighborhood associations and local schools and hospitals.
In his seventh and last State of the Borough speech, Stringer also announced plans to hold an April 26 conference at New York Law School that will focus on the recommendations of his Start-Up City report, which focused on transforming the City’s growing entrepreneurial and tech sector economy into a pipeline to the middle class. The conference will conclude with a moderated forum, to which all city leaders seeking mayoral office have been invited.
“The growth in creative class jobs—from food and fashion to marketing and media—is one of the best things to happen to this city in years,” Stringer said. “But high-tech employers are telling us they can’t find the engineers and programmers in New York City to drive this economy. At a time when more than 350,000 New Yorkers are out of work, it’s unacceptable. Starting salaries in the new tech economy can begin at $65,000 a year and rise quickly from there. It should be the ladder up for so many of our residents.”
The “Start-Up City” report offers key recommendations, including:
- Cutting red tape, so young start-ups don’t have to wait months to get a simple permit.
- Creating more affordable space for entrepreneurs to live and work.
- Doubling down on NYC’s efforts to link schools to the workplace, so classrooms provide the tech-intensive training that many students will need for future jobs.
In order to pay for much-needed investments in early-childhood education, Stringer also introduced a first-of-its-kind proposal that would utilize Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) as a funding mechanism for Early Head Start, an early intervention and prevention program for pregnant mothers and families with children ages 0 to 3. Currently, there are less than 7,000 Early Head Start seats funded in all of New York State.
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