City Planning Snubs Southern Brooklyn Waterfront

Repairs to the Plumb Beach bike path is one of the only local suggestions that made it into the waterfront planning document guiding the next 10 years of development.

The city’s new so-called “comprehensive waterfront plan” ignores the needs of Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods, said Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo, and she plans to tell the Department of City Planning that we demand more.

“What they’re pressing right now [in Brooklyn] is Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Red Hook and the Gowanus Canal,” Scavo told Sheepshead Bites. “Look at the things they’re pushing over there. The ‘up-and-coming waterfront’; but what about the one that’s been here for years?”

“Compared to other places, we didn’t get much of anything,” she added.

The Vision 2020 proposal is designed to steer the development and zoning agenda of New York City’s 500-plus miles of waterfront, targeting places for revitalization, development and preservation. It’s currently in its draft stage, and the Brooklyn Borough Board – made up of the Borough President and Community Board chairs – will hear a presentation tonight from the Department of City Planning.

But Scavo said she and others are unhappy, and Borough Hall will send a simple statement at tonight’s meeting.

“Borough Hall is going to say there’s not enough for Brooklyn, and we want… Well, there’s a whole litany of things,” she said.

Within the confines of Community Board 15, seven crucial proposals and a list of requests from local civic groups were submitted by the board to City Planning in March. The seven developments are:

  • To create a continuous promenade along Manhattan Beach
  • Along Emmons Avenue from Shore Boulevard to Knapp Street, to create both a visual corridor and a walkway which would allow all residents the opportunity of enjoying the waterfront.
  • Erosion has taken sand from Plumb Beach and narrowed the mouth of Sheepshead Bay causing Kingsborough Community College’s Maritime Program to face constant problems with boats mired in the sand. Boaters have to maneuver the accumulation of silt and sand to navigate from Sheepshead Bay through the narrow straight beyond Kingsborough and along Plumb Beach. Sheepshead Bay has required dredging for many years to maintain the recreational use of the Bay for so many individuals.
  • This past winter, the bike path at Plumb Beach has fallen into the sea. The Belt Parkway Eastbound can fall prey at any time during a severe storm. Plumb Beach has needed sand replenishment for many years and a long term solution must be created to avoid future erosion of this pristine neighborhood beach.
  • Gerritsen Beach area suffers from severe flooding due to eroded sea walls and bulkheads. To maintain integrity, these sea walls and bulkheads must be inspected and either repaired or replaced when necessary.
  • The Sea Wall along Manhattan beach must be repaired. The Sea Wall is crumbling and the potential for disaster is real.
  • Both Manhattan Beach and Gerritsen Beach border waterways. Many of the streets ending at waters edge are “Dead End Streets.” Most residents have usurped these dead end streets, erecting fencing and blocking a visual corridor as well as a place to access the waterfront. These street ends could create both visual interest and pedestrian access to water views.

But, in the most recent Vision 2020 draft, only one vaguely-worded suggestion draws from Scavo’s list, alongside another project with an uncertain future. Here’s what City Planning included in Vision 2020:

  • Brigham Street Park – Explore opportunities for enhanced public access by integrating into adjacent Plumb Beach
  • Plumb Beach – Mitigate against continuing erosion through sand replenishment to enhance natural habitat; re-build bike paths

Meanwhile, in Manhattan and Northern Brooklyn, Vision 2020 advances a slew of sporty additions to the waterfront, including new greenways, expanded esplanades, recreational facilities like boat launches, new public piers, markets, art galleries and rooftop parks.

The message is clear: if it’s not Manhattan and it doesn’t overlook Manhattan, a waterfront is worthless.

“Look at the new waterfront; look at Manhattan,” said Scavo. “Any of these waterfront areas they’ve got ideas left and right. What about us? Manhattan is not New York City and they can’t forget about us.”

Getting local ideas into the Vision 2020 proposal is far more than a cry for attention to our neighbors to the north, Scavo said. With Sheepshead Bay filling up with sand, and Plumb Beach emptying of it, vital economic and infrastructural resources are at stake. If safeguarding and rebuilding our infrastructure is included in the city’s 10-year waterfront plan, it’s one less stumbling block to getting the job done before it’s too late.

“You’ve got to take care of the problems [like those at Plumb Beach] yesterday. Not tomorrow, yesterday,” she said. “If we get in the proposals to City Planning, it’ll hasten the officials in getting it done.”


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