NEW YORK – New York's mayor on Monday unveiled a $3.3 billion plan to revitalize hundreds of miles of shoreline, expand ferry services and boost the shipping industry in the Big Apple.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan calls for the long-term development of industrial and tourist potential along the maze of waterfronts in and around the most populous US city.
Over the next three years, some 20 hectares (50 acres) of waterfront parks are planned, along with a new ferry service linking Manhattan to the outer boroughs. The projects are predicted to create 13,000 construction jobs and more than 3,400 permanent jobs, the mayor's office said.
The long-term component calls for development along the city's 520 miles (837 kilometers) of shoreline over the next decade.
Bloomberg promised "one of the most sweeping transformations of any urban waterfront in the world" that will make New York "one of the world's premier waterfront cities."
"New York City has more miles of waterfront than Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and Portland combined, but for decades, too many neighborhoods have been blocked off from it," Bloomberg said.
New York borders numerous bodies of water, including the Hudson River, Long Island Sound, the Atlantic Ocean and the famous harbor where immigrants once disembarked at Ellis Island, near the Statue of Liberty.
Although city waterways are often picturesque, some areas are derelict or badly polluted. For many, the biggest harbor in the region will be associated with the corrupt dockyards on the New Jersey shore that Elia Kazan portrayed in his film "On the Waterfront."
A different picture will emerge, city officials say, as they begin to plough in just under $3.3 billion in city funds over the next three years.
That money is ready to go, whereas longer-term projects are not yet budgeted, mayoral spokesman Andrew Brent told AFP.
"There's a lot of things we'd seek other funding on, whether state, federal or private enterprises," he said.
Officials attending the unveiling of the plan said that improvements would range from kayaking facilities to freight infrastructure for Brooklyn's container port.
One of the most visible early additions will be an East River ferry service connecting Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, an area where journeys by car or train can be complicated, despite short distances. The ferry launches in June.
Later, city officials say they would like to see closer integration of ferries with the land-based public transport system, including ticketing.
On a larger scale, one of the immediate projects is to renovate the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal for ship and barge docking and to improve a Brooklyn rail yard. In the longer term the city is looking at linking air and water hubs for both cargo and airline passengers.
Some of the big ticket items will include $50 million in ecological restoration projects over the next three years, $1.6 billion in upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, and $140 million in enhancing drainage of land.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said New York, which was founded by seafaring European settlers, then populated by immigrants, owed its "greatness" to its connections to water.
"But at some point in our history, we both literally and figuratively turned our back on the waterfront. Now we've made a decision to more fully embrace the waterfront," she said.