Waterfront Alliance 2016 Waterfront Conference

Hundreds of waterfront enthusiasts assembled last Thursday onboard the Hornblower Infinity for the Waterfront Alliance’s 2016 Waterfront Conference. A series of panel discussions, beginning dockside at Manhattan’s Pier 40 and continuing throughout the afternoon’s harbor cruise, tackled the challenges implicit in this year’s theme: “Defining and Delivering Equity at the waterfront”.

Onboard the Hornblower Infinity. Photo Credit: Greg J Haley AIA AICP LEED AP

With over 200 of New York City’s 520 miles of waterfront, now — according to NYC EDC President and CEO, Maria Torres-Springer — publicly accessible, the city’s waterfront has undergone an “extraordinary transformation”. However, while there is much to be celebrated in this, and the success of such developments as the Hudson River and Brooklyn Bridge parks, the question remains how lessons from these instances can be expanded to reach underserved communities more broadly across the five boroughs as currently, “burdens and benefits” have often, as Michael Sorkin of City College noted during his keynote conversation with Torres-Springer, been “unevenly distributed” geographically along New York’s waterfront.

Harbor Cruise. Photo Credit: Greg J Haley AIA AICP LEED AP

Stemming from this central concern for equity, a host of issues critical to the future of NYC’s waterfront were explored through discussions focused on financing and management, climate change adaptation, managed retreat, and youth programming, among others. Lastly a moderated discussion also took place as to what the desired direction and emphasis for the next comprehensive waterfront plan should be.

Ultimately, according to Torres-Springer, equity in the waterfront will require “balance” above all else; balance of competing goals, uses, values, and priorities, be they social, economic, or environmental. While admitting that the difficulties of achieving such balanced communal decisions may seem daunting, Torres-Springer remains confident that “New York has the capacity to ultimately form a shared vision for our waterfront”

More information on the 2016 Waterfront conference proceedings can be found through the Waterfront Alliance website.


Gregory Haley AIA AICP LEED AP

Gregory is an Architect and Urban Designer based in New York City, and an Associate with Grimshaw Architects.


Voices of Urban Design is a discussion forum that is curated by the APA New York Metro Chapter’s Urban Design Committee. Posts are edited for clarity and length only; opinions and statements that appear in this blog are not endorsed by the American Planning Association nor its affiliates. We expect and encourage healthy debate!
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