On March 14, 2011, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the release of a comprehensive waterfront and waterway sustainability plan, entitled "Waterfront Vision and Enhancement Strategy," that seeks to make improvements in reducing water pollution, protecting wetlands, responding to climate change, and other environmental policy steps.
The plan is aimed at transforming the city's 520-mile shoreline with parks, industry, and housing and capitalizing on its waterways to promote waterborne transportation, recreation, maritime activity, and natural habitats. The plan has two parts: a three-year action agenda made up of 130 funded projects, including waterfront parks, esplanades, and commuter ferry service, and a "Vision 2000" framework for the next decade. According to the city, the 190-page waterfront plan was developed over the past year to meet a council legislative mandate.
The three-year agenda includes $1.6 billion in upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, $650 million in improvements to existing infrastructure for combined sewer overflows, $180 million in "green infrastructure" to improve stormwater runoff management, and $140 million to enhance drainage by land acquisition and storm sewer improvements. Water quality goals in the Vision 2020 plan include improving pathogen and dissolved oxygen levels by reducing combined sewer outflows; reducing nitrogen discharges through improvements to wastewater treatment plants; and streamlining design and permit processes for incorporating green infrastructure.
To restore and protect wetlands and shorefront habitats, the three-year agenda includes $50 million in waterfront ecological restoration projects; projects to restore tidal wetlands and marshland at parks in the Bronx and Brooklyn; and a project to identify opportunities for large-scale oyster restoration. The Vision 2020 goals include creating and expanding shorelines, shallows, and intertidal areas; concentrating habitat creation and enhancement in protected ecological complexes; and improving habitat for oysters, fish, and other aquatic species.
In steps to help the city withstand coastal storms and flooding exacerbated by sea-level rise and other effects of climate change, the plan calls for establishing a strategic planning process for climate resilience, working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to update flood insurance maps, and revising evacuation maps. Longer-term steps include identifying resources to promote research and modeling of flood and storm surge risks; considering zoning changes to remove disincentives to enhanced flood protection of buildings; and developing an inventory of adaptation strategies that could be applied to the city.