I BOAT NY HARBOR - NY HARBOR OP-ED PAGE
Have an opinion about boating in NY Harbor? Submit an Op-Ed and I'll publish it on this page.
Op-Ed, defined either as an OPinion EDitorial, OPposite the EDitorial page or OPposing ED's opinions, is a personal opinion piece written by a reader or a guest writer relevant to the topic, in this case, the need for recreational boating docks in NY Harbor.
Public Access from the Water
Harvey Morginstin, PE September 2009
“Mankind has always looked to the sea with trepidation and awe. The sight of open water is mesmerizing and activity on the water be it waves or sailing ships, heightens our interest. We leave this view with sadness hoping to return again and again.” Harvey Morginstin
The general tendency of mankind has been to provide public access from the land to the water. Even Roman law set aside the waters edge for use by the general public. This exists to this day in the form of riparian rights. Great architectural detail of design for walkways and public waterfront parks are common. Manhattan is a case in point, with ample waterfront walkways and bike paths along the Hudson and East rivers for the public. Chicago, Boston and Pittsburgh have extensive walkways on the waterfront.
What is generally missing from the achievements of public access is access from the water to the land. All too often waterfront developers and city planners seem to think that waterfront “access” is merely a finely paved pedestrian walkway lined with paving blocks and landscaping with a great variety of colorful flowers. Certainly there are also many commercial uses of waterfront property such as ferry terminals and very private, exclusive and expensive marinas. Public access via commercial ferries is a terrific addition to the transportation system. But there is also a need for private vessels to also be accommodated. It should be just as convenient to take your boat to a waterfront site as it is to drive there in your car. Just imagine the public’s reaction if all public travel was only allowed by mass transportation. Yet that is the general situation when water travel is concerned.
Public access to and from the water for private vessels of all sizes requires careful city planning in order to expand the outlook beyond the water’s edge to the water itself.
The addition of public floating docks and walkways from the docks to the shore will provide both a means and justification for the transient boater to visit the local area by water and not travel there by car. Thus sufficient dock space will be needed for such visitors, visiting by boat. For high usage areas these new floating docks could be equipped with parking meters that accept credit cards. If the meters were placed 20 feet apart, then a 60-foot vessel would have to pay at 3 meters. Kayaks could be brought ashore and secured to suitably designed racks.
Any small boat, sailboat, cabin cruiser, canoe or kayak should have a place to safely land, tie up and allow the passengers to come ashore. This requires many floating docks and access gangways from the dock to the land. Very few such facilities exist in our major cities
Local and area residents, young and old, will certainly enjoy fishing from these docks. Therefore the end of the dock should be equipped with suitable features to accommodate fishing needs. Benches and tables for the general public’s use should also be supplied.
The economic benefits to the local municipality that has implemented a boater friendly waterfront redevelopment plan will be substantial. Boaters from around the metropolitan area will now have the necessary facilities to visit the local area and bring a fresh infusion of spenders.
Allowing boaters to come by boat and safely tie up at a municipal marina would provide boating visitors with the opportunity to enjoy local entertainment venues such as ballparks, theater and area restaurants.
Many floating docks are needed along the shorelines of our towns and cities so as to be in walking distance of city and town public gathering places.
Docks should be ADA compliant and have adequate lighting. Security monitoring can be achieved by closed circuit TV. Dock areas with high usage could be supplemented with paid uniformed marina attendants. This would be a great summer job opportunity for the student population.
The public enjoys parks and water walkways. To gaze out over the water is very soothing to the spirit. And having the added benefit of watching recreational boat traffic cruise on the waterway increases the interests of onlookers.
If planners are going to do something for the local community through their efforts to redevelop the city’s waterfront then their foresight, vision, and planning should result in their doing it “right” the first time. Looking at the waterfront improvement to bring the public to the water is only half the design; the finishing touch is to have a design that allows those already on the water to have access to the land.