New York: Creation of Hudson River Park, New York City
Agency: Army Corps of Engineers
Criterion for Council Involvement:
- This undertaking has generated widespread public interest and a great deal of controversy concerning the role of the public and the proposed treatment of the historic New York City Hudson River Bulkhead (Criterion 3).
On May 3, 2000, Council Chairman Cathryn Slater signed a Programmatic Agreement (PA) addressing creation of Hudson River Park. The final PA incorporates comments received from all consulting parties who participated in a March consultation meeting convened by the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). Although opponents of the project continue to have reservations regarding potential indirect effects, many conceded that the PA was an improvement over the initial mitigation plan presented to consulting parties in August 1999.
The PA calls for recordation of the historic New York City Hudson River Bulkhead and development of guidelines for its treatment during all phases of the project, which will be overseen by a preservation architect. The treatment of other historic properties, including the Baltimore & Ohio float railroad bridge, Pier 57, and historic vessels which will be berthed at the bulkhead, is also addressed. The PA sets forth how future reviews and public involvement will be coordinated and includes a provision that commits the applicant to consider unanticipated adverse effects which may result from project implementation.
The Corps is reviewing an application for a Section 404 permit from the Hudson River Park Trust (Trust) for the creation of a 550-acre waterfront park along the Hudson River in New York City. The proposed Hudson River Park, which is intended to increase access to the Hudson River and expand recreational open space in Manhattan, will be situated along a five-mile stretch of the west side of the city between Battery Park and 59th Street.
Formal planning for this State-funded undertaking dates to 1986 when the Governor of New York and the Mayor of New York City agreed to redevelopment of the waterfront as part of the settlement of a lawsuit concerning the controversial Westway Highway Project. The State passed legislation to authorize and fund the project and, following Presidential designation of the Hudson River as an American Heritage River, public interest in creating the park increased.
Creation of the Hudson River Park will require substantial modifications to the New York City Hudson River Bulkhead, which is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Designed and constructed by General George B. McClellan in 1871, this maritime structure was expanded in several stages through 1936. Several sections of the bulkhead are severely deteriorated.
The project design calls for removal of these areas, creation of a uniform appearance along the bulkhead, provision of spaces for historic vessels to be moored, and new landscaping. Other historic properties in the projectís area of potential effect include the Baltimore and Ohio Float Transfer Bridge and Pier 57.
A notable coalition of preservation organizations have endorsed the project, since it will stabilize the historic bulkhead and eliminate blight along the Hudson River. There is also a vocal group of project opponents comprised principally of environmentalists and residents from historic districts in the vicinity. The Section 106 review thus became the forum to voice concerns not only about design issues, but also land use, traffic and pedestrian management in adjacent communities, and aquatic issues resulting from increased use of the piers.
During two consultation meetings with more than thirty recognized consulting parties, the Council attempted to clarify the limits of its jurisdiction. Although somewhat contentious, the consultation meetings resulted in the identification of preservation issues which had not been adequately addressed during early negotiations among the Corps, the New York State Historic Preservation Office, and the Trust.
Accordingly, the scope of the draft PA was expanded to include mitigation measures that should ensure the long-term preservation and maintenance of the bulkhead and the protection and appropriate treatment of other historic properties. Efforts were also made to ensure the PA would address this projectís potential for unanticipated indirect and cumulative effects.
This project demonstrates the importance of public participation during Section 106 review. Because of the magnitude of this undertaking, its planning history, and its high political profile, the Corps and the Council attempted to conduct Section 106 review in as open, objective, and inclusive manner as possible. While opponents of the project remain concerned about the mitigation plan and the Councilís execution of a PA, the protracted consultation and the record of public involvement demonstrate that effects on historic properties were fully considered and that the views of the public influenced the outcome.
Staff contact: Charlene Dwin Vaughn
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