Friday, October 16, 2009

EPA Announces Guide: Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities

In the latest edition of Waterwire, the Waterfront Alliance's newsletter, there is an interesting article about a recently released guide put together by the EPA in partnership with NOAA, Rhode Island Sea Grant, and the International City/County Management Association, called "Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities". The EPA's web site states, "this interagency guide builds on existing smart growth principles to offer 10 specific development guidelines for coastal and waterfront communities."

"Coastal and waterfront communities have a distinctive sense of place created by their history, as well as by their characteristic sights, sounds, and smells. These communities face many unique challenges", including the challenges posed by climate change.

The EPA's site goes on to say,

"more than half of the U.S. population lives in coastal counties that cover less than 17 percent of U.S. land area, and that percentage continues to grow. Additionally, 180 million people visit coastal areas every year, and many others visit lake and riverfront communities. As they struggle to accommodate this intense interest, many coastal and waterfront communities have found that conventional development patterns threaten the assets they treasure most. Smart growth approaches can help these communities accommodate development, protect their natural resources, and keep people and property out of harm's way."

Here are the 10 guidelines (developed in collaboration with the Smart Growth Network) -

As Waterwire states, "the guide was announced at the H209 Forum on September 9 and 10 that celebrated the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Henry Hudson to New York Harbor and convened stakeholders from New York, New Jersey and the Netherlands to discuss water challenges facing coastal cities around the world."

The NY400 celebration included the event that welcomed the Dutch flat bottomed boats to the Atlantic Basin in Red Hook (my post here) , and also included events discussing waterfront development, such as the H209 Forum.

It got me thinking again about the way the waterfront is being developed here in Red Hook, Brooklyn, particularly regarding the plans recently put into place by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and signed off on by the Port Authority and the City of New York (Brooklyn Eagle story here) for Pier 11 and the Atlantic Basin. It's a plan that mostly monopolizes the use of that part of the waterfront by Phoenix Beverages in a lease that could potentially last till 2058, at the expense of broad waterfront access, open space, other activities and developments that could reconnect and bolster the commercial and residential community that abuts the waterfront and many other elements mirroring the above "10 principals" presented by the EPA . These neglected elements, however, were articulated in the goals and guidelines that were set by our Community Board and in our 197a Plan and strongly advocated for by our small businesses and residents who wanted to accommodate Phoenix on our waterfront as long as these other goals were met and perceived problems addressed.

Well, that wasn't to be.

Additionally, and most egregiously, these plans were put into place without any real regard for the effects of the pollution and congestion caused by the 200 truck trips a day and the added carcinogenic smokestack pollution caused by the idling container ships (each equivalent to 12,000 cars a day) that this expansion will bring to our already challenged residents - particularly our most vulnerable - children, the elderly and people with respiratory disease (Red Hook's asthma rate is 40%). The EDC and Port Authority told us - No Environmental Impact Study was required.

That doesn't seem like "smart growth" to me.

In the Brooklyn Eagle story Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is quoted saying, “This is a long-held dream come true for me."

Well for the residents of Red Hook, it may end up being more like a nightmare.

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