Returning the Waterfront to the City's Forefront

Remember the days when you zipped around town by way of the water? Neither do we. But if you've read books, you'd know that's how it once was, and Roland Lewis of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance says it can be once again.

"Let's imagine docks in every single one of these neighborhoods where educational boats could go," said Lewis, during an event at Mill Pond Park, on the Harlem River. "Where kayakers could go. Where all sorts of activity, where economic activity... Someone could come from Manhattan with a boat, full of tourists, to come see the antique shops in the south Bronx and go to one of the great restaurants that are around here. Let's reconnect ourselves around the water."

Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council want to re-invigorate the waterfront, with the help of unions, waterfront groups, environmentalists, and others. A new initiative would develop a blueprint for the city's shoreline--all 578 miles of it--while incorporating public sentiment through a series of hearings. The Department of City Planning must legally submit a new report on waterfront policies by December 31.

If you go by Lewis' vision, the future of the city's waterfront is pretty tantalizing. But can we afford it, in this economy? The mayor says the recession won't deter the city from investing in its waterfront.

"I think the lessons of the '70s  were, in the tough times, more important to go ahead and make these investments," he said. "And I think history will show we had the courage to do that."

If you're interested in attending the hearings, visit the city's website and sign up for email notification. One hearing has already been held, but officials say they'll announce the rest soon.