July 10, 2008

Harlem Piers is named a Green Apple by the NRDC

Every year the director of NRDC’s Urban Program in New York, Eric Goldstein, lists some of the city’s best environmental places (the “Green Apples”) and also some of its most environmentally worrisome locations (the “Red Apples”). West Harlem Waterfront Park was one of five “green apples” this year, highlighted along with the North Mount Loretto Woods in Staten Island and an initiative to plant 1 million new street trees in NYC.

From the Green Apples, Red Apples report:

New York City’s Hudson River waterfront is experiencing a renaissance. The creation of the Hudson River Park in 1998 began the transformation from the Battery to 59th Street. Access to the river has expanded, creating new places for New Yorkers to jog, bike, sunbathe and even launch kayaks into the river. And this waterfront revitalization has coincided with a cleaner Hudson River, with levels of traditional water pollutants having declined considerably over the last two decades.

Now, at long last, eagerly-awaited change is coming to northern Manhattan’s waterfront as well. This summer, the West Harlem Waterfront Park will officially open. A four block long esplanade will stretch between St. Clair Place and West 133rd Street, replacing an asphalt parking lot with lawns, play areas and woodsy gathering spots overlooking the Hudson. Two new piers will allow for kayaking, fishing and water taxi service. The Science Barge – an exploratory museum for children of all ages – will be docked at the new park this summer. And the park’s completion will allow for bicycle and pedestrian paths to connect with riverfront greenways to the south and north.

The new park fulfills the joint vision of West Harlem Environmental Action’s executive director Peggy Shepard and Community Board 9 leaders who worked with public officials for more than a decade. They helped convince the New York City Economic Development Corporation to jettison earlier development plans and to advance instead an innovative “community vision” for the site. New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told the New York Times that the new park will complete “the big missing link in the Hudson River greenway.”

And northern Manhattan community activists aren’t finished yet. In late 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked WE ACT to organize a broad-based community planning process to identify possible uses for the now closed Sanitation Department Marine Transfer Station, which is adjacent to the new park.

Responsible elected officials, community organizations and agency planners deserve a pat on the back for their commitment and determination to return this section of the waterfront to the West Harlem community. We designate, with pleasure, the new Hudson River Waterfront Park as an Earth Day 2008 Green Apple.

For the full text of the Green Apple, Red Apples report, visit the NRDC website.

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