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Products > Publications Printer Friendly Version
Plan For The Brooklyn Waterfront cover Plan For The Brooklyn Waterfront, 1994. ($5.00)
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The Plan for the Brooklyn Waterfront, a part of New York City's Comprehensive Waterfront Plan issued in August 1992, presents detailed studies of the borough's five reaches, or waterfront study areas. Two of the reaches -- Newtown Creek and Jamaica Bay -- are located in both Brooklyn and Queens. They are presented in their entirety in this report.

The two extremes of Brooklyn's waterfront typify its enormous diversity. At one end, Newtown Creek is heavily industrial -- replete with oil tanks and waste facilities -- and, at the other end, Jamaica Bay's creeks, wetlands and barrier beaches form an intact ecosystem that is one of the city's most valuable natural resources.

As a result of historical development patterns, industrial uses predominate along roughly half of the Brooklyn waterfront, stretching along Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal, and south along the East River and Upper Bay through the Sunset Park area. Originally part of New York's thriving port, these areas once housed one of the largest concentrations of maritime and industrial activity in the world. Deep, near-shore waters and protected harbors, combined with the availability of a large labor pool, offered an ideal setting for 19th and early 20th century industrialization which relied on water and rail for goods shipment. As a result, the waterfront developed with cargo handling piers and ferry terminals -- backed by upland industries, warehouses and the residential communities where many of the workers lived. These uses afforded few opportunities for open space and public access to the waterfront.

In contrast, the southern portions of the Brooklyn waterfront have abundant public access and recreation and, in the case of Jamaica Bay, a remarkable natural resource and wildlife habitat with an estimated 4,000 acres of tidal wetlands. Public parks and beaches connect upland neighborhoods to the waterfront along most of the southern shoreline. Waterfront parkland and the Shore Road Esplanade, with magnificent views of the harbor and Verrazano Bridge, extend along the Brooklyn Lower Bay to Coney Island Creek. From Sea Gate to Brighton Beach, shorefront beaches offer ocean bathing and broad views of the harbor and ocean. Sheepshead Bay's fishing fleet and waterfront walkways are major regional attractions, and the Gateway National Recreation Areaand a number of city parks along Jamaica Bay offer New Yorkers respite from the pace of city life.

The Comprehensive Waterfront Plan designates Jamaica Bay as one of three Special Natural Waterfront Areas in the city where preservation of natural coastal resources is a paramount goal. The reach study recommends a number of measures to achieve that goal. Adding further protection to Jamaica Bay, the state has designated it a Significant Fish and Wildlife Habitat. In contrast to the resources of Jamaica Bay, some of the other Brooklyn waterways -- Newtown Creek, Gowanus Canal and Coney Island Creek -- are degraded and measures are proposed to improve water quality in these tributaries.

To achieve the comprehensive plan's public access goals for Brooklyn, the reach studies identify opportunities to connect residents to their waterfronts, particularly in those areas that presently have little, if any, waterfront open space. Along the industrial waterfront from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, where public open space is extremely limited, the plan identifies several important opportunities to create new waterfront open space, notably the proposed Brooklyn Harbor complex near the downtown civic and business district. The wealth of public waterfront parks concentrated in the south can be linked together to increase their use and accessibility. Along Jamaica Bay, the plan suggests new opportunities for active recreation such as boat launch locations, as well as environmentally sensitive access to natural areas.

Brooklyn's working waterfront will continue to be concentrated along Newtown Creek, the East River and the Upper Bay. Despite the citywide decline in maritime activity and manufacturing, these areas contain substantial maritime infrastructure and significant concentrations of industrial jobs. In recognition of the importance of these areas, four of the six Significant Maritime/Industrial Areas designated in the comprehensive plan are located in Brooklyn. These include Newtown Creek, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Red Hook Marine Terminal and Erie Basin/Sunset Park. Manufacturing zoning would be maintained in these areas and a coordinated infrastructure strategy would be developed. Throughout Brooklyn, opportunities for new ferry service are identified.

Applying the citywide criteria for identifying potential waterfront redevelopment sites to Brooklyn, the plan recommends redevelopment of 15 vacant and underused sites. Six of these sites are located in manufacturing districts and would require rezoning to permit housing, commercial or recreational development. Redevelopment of these sites would expand the city's tax base, create new housing and connect upland communities to the waterfront open spaces required in conjunction with most new development along the shoreline.

Public dialogue has contributed importantly to the development of the Comprehensive Waterfront Plan. During the past two years, more than 100 public meetings have been held to elicit the views of public officials, community boards, civic and neighborhood organizations. A citywide Waterfront Plan Advisory Committee worked with the Department to identify and discuss issues and opportunities affecting the future of the city's waterfront.

Community boards, borough boards and local elected officials have assisted with the reach studies at two stages in their development: the issues identification phase and, more recently, review of the preliminary reach recommendations summarized in the Comprehensive Waterfront Plan. The final reach studies contained in this report reflect modifications in response to public comment. Public participation in the waterfront planning process will continue over the coming months and years as elements of the local plans move toward implementation.

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