Waterfront Plan Progress for Environmental Justice Communities

March 2011 - Volume 2, Issue 2

In This Issue: Waterfront Plan Progress for Environmental Justice Communities, and Upcoming Public Lecture Series (co-sponsored with Pratt Institute) 

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Waterfront Action Plan press conference 3.14.11

NYC-EJA and our members achieved an important victory last week, when Mayor Bloomberg, Council Speaker Quinn and other officials unveiled the long-awaited Vision 2020, NYC's Comprehensive Waterfront Plan and WAVES, the City's Waterfront Action Agenda.   Among the Vision 2020/WAVES initiatives announced by the Mayor were several recommendations shaped by NYC-EJA's advocacy.  


For the last year, NYC-EJA advocated the reform of a Waterfront Revitalization Program designation called Significant Maritime Industrial Area (SMIA).  Created in the late 90's, the SMIA designation encourages the concentration and clustering of heavy industrial & maritime development in 6  largely low-moderate income communities of color (i.e. - Sunset Park, Red Hook, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Newtown Creek, the South Bronx and Staten Island's North Shore - see map in Public Lecture announcement below). Development applications in SMIA's are treated differently and to a lesser review standard than other waterfront areas, thereby easing the siting and clustering of polluting infrastructure.  All SMIA's are also in storm surge zones, threatening the community resiliency of these waterfront neighborhoods during severe storm events, when residents and workers may be exposed to unknown toxic chemical releases via flooding.   


"NYC-EJA applauds the Bloomberg Administration for recognizing the inequities and risks associated with the current SMIA zones, and we welcome the opportunity for reform.  This milestone sets the stage for our waterfront advocacy in the coming years - and sets the bar for future Mayoral and Council Speaker candidates willing to support the resiliency of our most vulnerable waterfront communities," said Eddie Bautista, NYC-EJA Executive Director.  Among the Plan's more relevant proposals for our communities are: 


Goal - Support the Working Waterfront:

  • Revise Waterfront Revitalization Program to clarify SMIA purpose and intent, review procedures, and strengthen water-dependent uses. (DCP, 2012)
  • Study zoning and other regulations regarding open industrial uses to better control environmental impacts, particularly the discharge of pollutants into the city's waterways, odor, and airborne dust and debris. (DCP, 2013)
  • Work with Brownfield Opportunity Area grant recipients, local communities, and elected officials in Significant Maritime and Industrial Areas (SMIA) to examine existing conditions and strategies for redevelopment, reuse, and remediation. (DCP/OER, 2013)

 Goal: Increase Climate Resilience:

  • Study best practices for increasing resilience to coastal flooding and storm surge. (DCP, 2012)
  • Support coastal communities' efforts to undertake local resilience planning, and improve the dissemination of publicly-available data on the locations of hazardous material storage. (Mayor's Office, 2012)
  • Revise NYC's Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan to reflect new information, such as updated Sea, Lake and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH)  data, and regulatory and policy changes. (OEM, 2013+)
  • Revise NYC coastal storm evacuation zone maps based on updated SLOSH data to identify vulnerable populations. (OEM, 2013)
  • Partner with FEMA to develop more accurate consideration of current flooding risks, utilizing more accurate data in remapping to update FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps. (Mayor's Office, 2012)
  • Establish a strategic planning process for climate resilience by updating PlaNYC. (Mayor's Office, 2011)

 Goal: Enhance the Blue Network:

  • Develop procedures to coordinate real-time support for maritime evacuation including ferry routes and landings, crowd control, enhanced mass transit service, and public information. (OEM, 2011)
  • Support waterfront infrastructure projects that increase capability for emergency evacuations and disaster logistics. (OEM, 2011)

The Comprehensive Waterfront Plan can be found at www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/cwp/index.shtml


20 years of fighting for cleaner and more just communities - one block at a time,

The NYC Environmental Justice Alliance




NYC Environmental Justice communities and storm surge zones 


Pratt Institute's Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance are co-hosts of the 2011 Sustainable Waterfront Public Lecture series.  The Public Lecture series, held at Pratt Manhattan Campus (144 West 14th Street), Room 213, is free and open to the public .  Space is limited - to RSVP for one of the upcoming lectures, please email [email protected]

New York City, with over 520 miles of coastline, presents incredible opportunities for maritime and recreational activities, natural areas and visionary waterfront development. However, NYC is also among the U.S. cities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change - from sea level rise to hurricanes. (See NYC-EJA's map above showing environmental justice communities inequitably designated as "Significant Maritime Industrial Areas", or SMIA's, under NYC's Waterfront Revitalization Program.  SMIA designations not only cluster polluting infrastructure in low income waterfront communities of color, but does so in areas vulnerable to storm surges. To learn more, please visit our website at www.NYC-EJA.org

Change along NYC's waterfront is inevitable. In response, NYC and NYS agencies have released new plans, programs and policies to address these future realities. We invite the authors and framers of these proposals to discuss how their overall visions and proposals advance environmental, equity and economic development goals.

Friday, April 1st - Vision 2020: Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, with Michael Marrella, NYC Dept. of City Planning Project Director

Friday, April 29 - NYS Climate Action Plan, with Alan Belensz, NYS Attorney General Schneiderman's Office (& former Director of the Office of Climate Change with NYS Department of Environmental Conservation)

Each Lecture begins with a 5:30 pm reception, followed by the actual lecture at 6 pm.  Q&A begins at 7 pm, with program concluding at 7:30 pm.  Hope to see you at the Lecture series.  Space is limited - don't forget to RSVP!


For more information on NYC-EJA's work (or better yet, to support that work with a tax-deductible donation), please visit our website at www.NYC-EJA.org.  You'll be glad you did!


Hasta la proxima,

Eddie Bautista,

Executive Director