MWA's Annual Conference: Rebuilding NYC's Waterfront in the Wake of Severe Storms
NYC - News
New York, NY, June 13, 2014 - The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance's 2014 Waterfront Conference -- "Rebuilding Our Waterfront: From the Water In, From the Grassroots Up" -- was held in late April aboard the Hornblower Infinity at Pier 40 on Manhattan's Hudson River Park. The conference focus was on grassroots, community-based waterfront plans developed before and after Superstorm Sandy, and honored the people behind five such plans as Heroes of the Harbor.

Photos: Paul C. Focazio, NYSG

Over 350 attendees attended the event, kicked off by MWA President and CEO Roland Lewis, who said. "Our goal is to remain unitied and work toward a common goal of finding ways to convince the public that this is a waterfront worth investing in."

Lewis is referring to the lower Hudson River, the New York-New Jersey Harbor and the other waterways within the New York metro area. It is a topic of conversation furthered by keynote speaker Christopher Ward (pictured above), former Port Authority Executive Director, who said, "Together, MWA's members can make New York Harbor and port more resilient in this era of climate change and sea level rise, help keep the economic engine that is our port vital and robust, and work toward greater environmental restoration of the region's waterfronts."

NYC's Director of the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, Dan Zarrilli. Photo: MWA

Progress on the City's waterfront since 2013's conference, held a year ago, was also a running theme. The de Blasio Administration released a progress report on PlaNYC programs the same week of the event. Expanding on the sustainability and resiliency work of the Bloomberg Administration, the report includes several key initiatives related to waterfront policy, including: 
  • 1.2 million cubic yards of sand replenished on the Rockaway peninsula, Coney Island, and Staten Island, with another 2.9 million cubic yards on track to be placed this year

  • Securing reforms to the national flood insurance program to keep insurance available and affordable for New Yorkers

  • Upgrading city building code and operations to protect buildings in the floodplain against floods, wind and power outages through 17 local laws that have passed the City Council.

For the full report, visit the related article.

After the Storm: Implementing Towards Resiliency

Fall 2012's Superstorm Sandy was the storm that launched a thousand conferences and made resiliency a household word. A number of the panelists for one of the day's discussions reinforced what many scientists, like New York Sea Grant-funded Stony Brook University storm surge expert Malcolm Bowman has been saying: We've surely done great planning. Are we getting the job done?

Holly Leicht, Regional Administrator-Region II from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, cites the Bay Park Waste Treatment Plant in East Rockaway, NY as one facility that was seriously impacted by Sandy. After the storm retreated the New York metro area, many wondered if the Western Long Island South Shore Estuary ecosystem would be able to handle the additional nitrogen from the failure of plant. Investigators from one NYSG-funded project examined the issue, which NYSG's Communications Manager Barbara A.Branca (pictured above, second to left in inset photo at right) detailed in a picture-laden blog entry she wrote following her November 2013 trip with the researchers on their fourth sampling trip to the western Long Island south shore site. For more, see "Superstorm Sandy One Year Later: Can Salt Marshes Handle Effluent From a Failed Sewage Treatment Plant?"

A question posed to Leicht and her fellow panelists, as well as to Bowman when he spoke at last year's conference: "Why can't we talk more about 'retreat' from the barrier islands in our urban environment?" For more from Bowman on that subject, see "NYSG Joins Some 600+ Attendees at Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance's Annual NYC Conference."

In "Weathering the Next Big Storm," a feature story in Stony Brook Magazine's Spring 2014 issue, Bowman says Sandy was a wake-up call to New York City and Long Island: “That means designing and building storm surge barriers like many cities in Europe already have.” Bowman, was also profiled in December 2013's news item "Stony Brook University Researcher Malcolm Bowman vs. The Storms," which includes a summary of storm-related media discussions with the likes of NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, the BBC, and journalist Dan Rather.

Raising public awareness related to severe storms is the primary focus of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s $1.4M "Coastal Storm Awareness Program" (CSAP), a multi-year effort—a partnership between NOAA and Sea Grant programs in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut—is intended to raise awareness of how severe weather is communicated to and within communities. For more, see NYSG's related news item, "Improving Community Awareness on Coastal Storms."

NYSG archives news on hurricanes, Superstorm Sandy as well as CSAP at, respectively,, and

Improving Public Transit on the Waterfront

Unveiled at the conference was "Ship to Shore: Integrating New York Harbor Ferries With Upland Communities" (pdf), a policy paper proposing 15 actionable steps toward better connecting ferries with public transit.

The call to integrate ferries into the regional transportation network comes as waterborne transit is enjoying a renaissance in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. But because ferries rarely function in coordination with other mass transit, waterborne transit is not able to live up to its full potential.

"Ferries have become a critical component of New York City's transportation network," said Brian McCabe, Chief Operating Officer of New York Water Taxi. "But the success of the ferry industry is contingent upon adequate land-side connections, including improved accessibility and affordability through integration with NYC Transit."

"The future of ferry service in New York Harbor will be greatly enhanced if our public agency partners embrace the forward-looking agenda put forth by the MWA in its 'Ship to Shore' report," said Paul Goodman, CEO of BillyBey Ferry Company, which operates as NY Waterway. "Greater coordination with public mass transit alternatives to connect people with ferry locations would further establish ferries as an integral part of the regional transportation network."

Tweet Tweet: The 'Social' Side of #MWAConference2014

There was much said at this year's conference, which, as MWA President and CEO Roland Lewis explains, covered a lot of ground: "We are faced with the ever increasing threats of coastal flooding, sea level rise, and climate change," he says. "The need to ensure equity dictates that we build for resilience in all waterfront areas, from industrial to residential to parkland, so that they are protected and active.  We must continue to make equity and resilience the twin goals of every project on the waterfront."

One of the ways that much of what was discussed during the day was highlighted was through the Twitter feeds of the conference's attendees. Here is just a sample of those tweets ...

What's Next: This Summer's "City of Water Day" Expands Its Reach

On Saturday, July 12th, MWA will expand its annual "City of Water Day" event to waterfronts large and small all over New York City and New Jersey. Over 40 groups have signed on to produce City of Water Day "In Your Neighborhood" events while the bi-state festival takes place on New York City's Governors Island and at Maxwell Place on the Hoboken, NJ waterfront.

Pier 42 on the Lower East Side will be a particularly exciting spot. Here, the Hester Street Collaborative, Lower East Side Ecology Center, 2 Bridges Neighborhood Council and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council will present Paths to Pier 42. Visitors to the pier will find children's activities, arts & crafts, music, food, and all sorts of environmental and waterfront information.

The Bronx River Alliance will sponsor a guided tour of the river by canoe flotilla, leaving at 10 a.m. from Concrete Plant Park and visiting salt marsh and oyster restoration sites.

At Hunts Point Landing, Rocking the Boat, CityScience and NYC Audubon will be offering fun from Noon to 5 p.m. Landlovers can learn about tidal pools from City Science and about bird migration from NYC Audubon. On the water, Rocking the Boat will run a sailing program featuring student-built wooden boats: two six-passenger rowboats will be used to ferry people out to two six-passenger 19-foot sailboats. Guests will have an opportunity to learn to row, and once aboard the sailboats, they will be able to take turns steering and controlling the sails.

For a sample of NYSG's efforts from last year's event, see "On YouTube, On Air, On Blog: Sea Grant Educates at City of Water Day in Big Apple." And MWA has more on what's to come for this year's festivities at

— Paul C. Focazio, NYSG's Web Content Manager

Event Photo Series: MWA's 2014 Conference

Hundreds of waterfront non-profit organizations, government officials and other decision-makers, scientists, engineers, environmentalists, journalists and community member boarded the Hornblower Infinity on April 24th for the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliances 2014 Conference, a day-long series of panel discussions on pressing waterfront issues. Here are a few images taken during the cruise portion of the event, which began at Pier 40 on the west side of Manhattan in Chelsea, continued south down the Hudson to The Battery and then around NYC's East Side to the East River, where the boat sailed under the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. Photos: Paul C. Focazio, NYSG.

Recognizing Some Heroes of the Harbor

Five community-led waterfront plans were honored at the MWA's 2014 Conference that have transformed the metropolitan region and, in doing so, have become important lessons about collaboration, equity and resilience.

Some of the members of Green Shores NYC—an all-volunteer, not-for-profit coalition of individuals, community groups and local businesses who joined together to improve and promote the waterfront parks and shoreline of Queens—are pictured above. Green Shores NYC were recognized by MWA for putting forth a Waterfront Vision Plan in 2011 for the East River shoreline from Newtown Creek to Bowery Bay. With the help of the Trust for Public Land, Green Shores developed the community's waterfront vision via public brainstorming workshops that resulted in more than a thousand ideas for creating a more accessible, useful and beautiful shoreline. Photo: Green Shores NYC

Formed in 1990 when the voters of Hoboken defeated a massive shoreline development scheme, Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) has worked for more than two decades to create a continuous park running the length of Hoboken's riverfront. This park is 80% complete. In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, FBW has expanded its vision to include resilience and outreach, advising organizations in Weehawken, Jersey City, Edgewater and Bayonne. FBW has also sponsored waterfront planning exhibitions and published planning guides. "We believe that successful waterfronts begin with sound planning, time-tested urban design and an understanding that the water's edge belongs to the public," said Executive Director Ron Hine, who accepted the honor.

More than 50 stakeholders comprise the Harlem River Working Group, which concentrates on the Bronx interests of this reemerging waterway. Partnering with the Trust for Public Land and the Pratt Center for Community Development, the group sponsored public workshops and then in 2012 created and published " Our River Our Future," a bilingual, multi-page detailed vision for the reclamation of the Bronx shores of the Harlem River.

In 2001, Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) spearheaded a Master Plan for development in Newark, NJ that led to an Open Space & Recreation Plan, which in turn led to a Waterfront Park Plan. Newark's Riverfront Revival, an initiative of the Newark Planning Office working with the ICC and other partners that reclaims the banks of the Passaic River, is the vibrant upshot of this process. While accepting the honor, ICC Executive Director Joseph Della Fave said, "Our mission is to engage and empower individuals, families and groups in realizing their aspirations and, together, work to create a just, vibrant and sustainable community."

Through its most recent campaign, "Greater Rockaway: 2020 Waterfront Vision," Rockaway Waterfront Alliance (RWA) fosters a connection between the community and the Rockaway waterfront by empowering residents with knowledge and opportunity and by sponsoring events that raise awareness about the shoreline. "Our focus is to pursue environmental justice by engaging residents, specifically youth in programs and events that utilize the waterfront to address habitat conservation, renewable energy resources and public space planning," said award recipient Jeanne DuPont, RWA's Executive Director.

More Info: New York Sea Grant and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance

New York Sea Grant is one of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliances (MWA) over 650 partners with ties to our regional waterways. "Together we are working to transform the waters of New York and New Jersey Harbor into clean and accessible places to learn, work and play, with inviting parks, dependable jobs and reliable, eco-friendly transportation for all," says MWA President and CEO Roland Lewis. For more on MWA, its mission, initiatives and events, see

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, is one of 33 university-based programs under the National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NSGCP engages this network of the nation’s top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources. Through its statewide network of integrated services, NYSG has been promoting coastal vitality, environmental sustainability, and citizen awareness about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources since 1971.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links. NYSG also offers a free e-list sign up via for NY Coastlines, its flagship publication, which, in 2014, merges with the program's e-newsletter, Currents. NY Coastlines is published several times a year.

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