By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Most of the waterfront-related legislation that has been proposed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy has dealt with securing Coney Island, Rockaway and other beachfront areas.
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn), on the other hand, is proposing legislation aimed at protecting the industrial waterfront, such as the Red Hook Containerport and Bush Terminal, as well as waterfront parks like Brooklyn Bridge Park and Hudson River Park and inland waterways like the Gowanus Canal.
Flanked by community leaders from Red Hook and Sunset Park, she announced her “Waterfront of Tomorrow Act” at Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge on Tuesday, only a few hours before heading to Washington to introduce the bill.
“Whether it is commerce, recreation, transportation, or our local environment, New Yorkers’ lives are inextricably linked to the water that surrounds us,” Velázquez said. “Investing in our ports, coasts and waterfronts can improve our city and local communities.”
As an example of how global warming can impact the business community, she said, about half of all businesses that suffered damage from Superstorm Sandy were in waterfront areas.
To better protect New York residences and businesses from future storms and floods, her bill would empower the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a comprehensive strategy making coastal areas more resilient.
Asked about Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to protect the waterfront, which would entail building dunes, levees and jetties to protect the coastline, Velazquez was somewhat non-committal. She said that further studies and data are needed.
Under her plan, ports and harbors would be incorporated into the National Freight Policy provisions included in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. These provisions recently established a national freioght network, consisting mainly of roads and highways, to improve the movement of cargo through the U.S.
The legislation also encourages the growth of green spaces like the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway and other coastal projects to make water-adjacent neighborhoods more livable. For Velazquez, paths like the Brooklyn Greenway serve a similar purpose, to unite various communities within the city “from brownstones to public housing.”
In addition to making ports safe, her plan would make them more environmentally friendly by encouraging such technologies as oyster reef restoration, tidal wetland restoration and other natural designs that reduce storm surge impacts. The U.S. Maritime Administration and the EPA would jointly establish a “Green Port” designation for ports that meet certain environmental standards.
Also speaking at the press conference were Elizabeth Yeampierre, president of UPROSE, a Sunset Park-based enviromental organization; Eddie Bautista, executive director at the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance; Thomas W. Wright, executive director of the Regional Plan Association; and Tom Fox, founder of New York Water Taxi.
Ward said that waterfront parks complement commercial and industrial pier activity. The parks attract tourists and tourist dollars, he said. Fox said that the availability of pier facilities in Red Hook helped his business grow dramatically.