Vision of a Riverfront Lined With Ferry Docks
The Hudson River may no longer be the major economic and transportation artery it once was, but it is a big river — beautiful in parts — that is home to commercial boats like ferries and barges as well as pleasure craft like sailboats and jet skis.
It is not, as it turns out, home to enough docks.
Water access has become one of the central tenets of urban redevelopment. In recent years, New York City has significantly opened its island edges to the public in a series of trails, parks and redeveloped piers. Upriver towns likeCroton-on-Hudson, Irvington and Poughkeepsie have followed suit.
Now the state is backing an effort to create more docks along the Hudson River, from New York City as far north as Lake Champlain. “There’s been recognition of the irony that the city of New York and the whole Hudson Valley has this spectacular waterfront and very little access,” said Clay Hiles, executive director of the Hudson River Foundation.
The effort, to which the state has already allocated $750,000, is being described as a “legacy project” of the yearlong Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Celebration, named after three of the great explorers of New York waterways: Henry Hudson, who explored the river of his name; Robert Fulton, who developed the first commercial steamboat on the Hudson River; and Samuel de Champlain, who explored the lakes to the north.
Joan K. Davidson, chairwoman of the celebration commission, described her vision for a whole network of docks linking communities along the Hudson, for commerce, transportation and recreation. “Too many of us in New York’s communities still can’t get to the river, or even see it,” she said at a recent event to raise additional money for the docks.
Communities are now in the process of applying for a share of the state money for one of the initial docks, with the communities covering one quarter of the cost.
Robert W. Elliott, who recently stepped down as deputy secretary of state and who previously was mayor of Croton-on-Hudson, said that there had been significant interest in the docks, which could be used for New York City based ferry services like New York Waterway. “This is just the beginning of a program we hope will go on for many, many years so that all communities that want access to the river will have it,” he said.
More than 40 possible sites have already been identified.
Scenic Hudson, which runs 40 parks and preserves along the river, has applied for money for a small kayak launching dock at a park its developing in Beacon. “We see this as a great opportunity for organizations like our and municipalities to create gateways to their waterfronts and their communities,” said Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson.
The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance has requested financing for two docks in New York City, at Inwood in Manhattan and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn. Roland Lewis, head of alliance, said Manhattan has just three public docks. “The lack of access down here is shocking,” he added.
Samantha Heyman, captain of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a sailboat that specializes in environmental education, said that appropriate dock spaces could transform people’s relationship to the waterfront, citing Red Hook, Brooklyn, as an “if you build it, they will come type of place.”
Arthur E. Imperatore, chief executive of New York Waterway, which operates 34 commuter ferries on 18 routes between the city and New Jersey, said that with better dock access he believed that the commuter ferry system could be significantly expanded to include the other boroughs.
The quadricentenial commission has already released plans for a basic multipurpose dock, designed by Guardia Architects in consultation with state regulatory officials, that they say they hope communities will use because it will be cheaper and quicker to construct, Ms. Davidson said. (They estimate the cost at about $300,000.) (James Sanders, an architect, is hoping to add some dramatic flourishes to the bare-boned design.)
“We should be doing anything that increases the use of the river — short of heavy industrial uses,” said Kevin Bone, an architect and author of “New York Waterfront: Evolution and Building Culture of the Port and Harbor”(Monacelli, 2003).
By A. G. Sultzberger