Current MWA Programs

MWA Task Forces

The Task Forces convened by MWA take on the important tasks of defining needs, synthesizing various agendas, prioritizing land-use proposals, and developing a comprehensive vision for the New York-New Jersey waterfront. Comprised of scientists, engineers, urban planners, community advocates, government workers, boat captains, and others, the Task Forces represent a diverse group of stakeholders associated with our local waterways. MWA’s Task Forces focused on Aquatecture, Green Harbor, Harbor Education, Harbor Recreation, and the Working Waterfront have been active since 2007 and continue to move forward on a variety of critical agenda items.

In 2010 and 2011 the Alliance’s six Task Forces dove into the great task of drafting recommendations for a new New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan that was feasible and reflected the needs and aspirations of the people of the City of New York.

MWA worked with New York City Department of City Planning, MWA Task Forces, and our Alliance Partners to ensure a robust input process led to implementable recommendations for the New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan.  MWA conducted facilitation and note taking at all NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan workshops and submitted comments to the City on MWA’s guidance for updates to the plan. MWA held over 10 task force meetings regarding the Plan and assisted the City in their Borough Workshops.

The Task Forces also laid the ground work for the new Harbor Coalition by calling for the need for more revenue and Federal support for the harbor. In some cases, the Task Forces have taken the initiative to work independently. For example, the Harbor Education Task Force has produced and is finalizing a guide to Harbor Literacy to be used by educators describing the baseline knowledge every student should have about the harbor and the waterfront.


City of Water Day

City of Water Day is a unique and high-profile annual event that focuses wide-scale public attention on the challenges and opportunities facing our waterfront and highlights solutions. This free, daylong festival on Governors Island and in Liberty State Park inspires people with the vision of a world-class regional waterfront. MWA accomplishes this through waterfront fun, entertainment, and recreation, as well as dialogue, hands-on learning, and civic engagement, in a way not replicated at any other Harbor event in the region.  In 2012, 25,000 people participated in the Festival and hundreds of thousands learned of the event and the potential of the waterfront through extensive media coverage.


Waterfront Communications

Our communications program has established MWA as an authoritative voice on waterfront issues and a reliable source of information for everyone, from the highest levels of government to the smallest neighborhood groups. MWA reaches thousands of active waterfront-inspired organizations, individuals, and leaders through its effective and popular communication tools. These include the bi-weekly electronic newsletter, WaterWire, distributed to over 6,000 readers; MWA’s website featuring important information about the waterfront and the Waterfront Action Agenda; a semiannual printed newsletter; and a database of hundreds of waterfront access points located throughout the region.

Through its role as the regional waterfront convener, MWA has become a nexus for news and policy regarding the waterfront through its primary communication vehicle, WaterWire.  Important issues and events are transmitted to the waterfront community and sometimes picked up by the mainstream media as stories.

MWA also conducts in-depth research that affects and creates new policy, and which is available as documents, publications, and white papers on the website.


Waterfront Permitting Program

In the New York-New Jersey Harbor there are dozens of government agencies responsible for some aspect of regulating waterfront use, resulting in a complicated, non-transparent system that stymies even the most sophisticated waterfront operators. MWA has taken a leadership role in clarifying and refining the waterfront permitting system, and has established itself as the voice for the maritime industry, community groups, design firms, park developers, and others, looking to create ecologically sound waterfront projects that benefit the City and its residents. 

In 2008, MWA conducted extensive research on the permitting system from which four work products were developed, including the report Improving Waterfront Permitting in the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary containing 26 permitting reform recommendations.


Waterfront Governance

MWA’s 2010 Task Force meetings revealed important information regarding the need for better waterfront governance.  A 21st century waterfront requires a 21st century governance model that addresses who runs the waterfront, who pays for the waterfront, and who pays for the maintenance of the waterfront, questions that remain unanswered. MWA began to advocate in 2010 for better waterfront governance, identifying that the strategy must consist of two components: 1) broadly communicating the need for improved waterfront governance through MWA conferences and publications and 2) developing and disseminating The State of the Waterfront—a tool for holding our government leaders accountable for commitments made for the waterfront.  The State of the Waterfront report was developed in 2010 highlighting the need for better waterfront governance.


Waterfront Conferences

Convened by MWA, New York – New Jersey waterfront conferences gather the region’s leading waterfront advocates, politicians, environmentalists, community and business leaders, scientists, and elected officials to share ideas and develop strategies for revitalizing the region’s waterfront. MWA’s conferences achieve multiple goals – educating leaders, bringing together MWA’s constituency, generating policy ideas, and building momentum for new thinking.

The 2012 Waterfront Conference was another great success, attracting over 650 participants over two days.  MWA’s recent Waterfront Conference was held April 9 aboard the Hornblower Hybrid.


Harbor Camp

Harbor Camp is a unique water-based summer camp that introduces low-income school age children to New York City’s Harbor and waterways. Each summer, MWA provides an average of 20 no-cost, on-water, or water-focused field trips to children from local Settlement Houses, most often on historic and educational vessels.  The trips provide hands-on ecological, environmental, maritime, and historical education, and cultivate an attitude of stewardship in participants.  In 2011, over 1,100 children from Settlement Houses participated in Harbor Camp, an experience that will seed their commitment as adults to shape, protect, and develop the waterfront for future generations.  Harbor Camp expanded in 2010 through a new partnership between MWA and the New York Harbor School.  This expansion enables Harbor Camp to now also serve as a vehicle to introduce middle school students to a harbor education and careers in the maritime industry.  Harbor Camp is a part of a growing educational initiative for MWA that includes the Harbor Education Task Force, MWA’s Harbor Literacy Document for Educators, Splash! – MWA’s Waterfront Education Resource Guide, and educational programming at City of Water Day.


Design the Edge

Design the Edge is a collaborative venture to make innovative waterfront design a standard in all waterfront projects. Big box stores, large condominiums, bulky sea walls, or poorly designed promenades and waterfront parks can lock away our shoreline and have significant ecological impact. By gathering landscape architects, marine engineers, marine biologists, and environmental artists, MWA’s Design the Edge program challenges traditional paradigms of waterfront design and has initiated projects to transform New York City’s many shorelines that are poorly planned for optimal use. Building on its 2006 Design the Edge project in Harlem River Park (Manhattan), MWA completed two more Design the Edge projects in 2010 – in the Far Rockaways (Brooklyn) and near the South Street Seaport (Manhattan).  The Design the Edge project at Hallets Cove was completed in early 2013. MWA worked in 2010 to ensure the principle of Design the Edge would be included in the New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan.


The Open Waters Initiative

MWA’s Open Waters Initiative will bring Community Eco Docks to waterfronts throughout the five boroughs, unlocking the region’s waterfront and allowing human-powered boats, historic and educational vessels, tall ships, and other vessels to visit these once land-locked waterfront communities. These floating docks are accessible to all types of vessels, and their flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and potential environmental and economic benefits make them almost universally approved by City agencies and communities alike. In 2010 and 2011, MWA worked extensively to begin the planning, design, and coordination of MWA’s first Community Eco Dock to be installed in 2013 at the 69th St. Pier in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. MWA completed preliminary work in 2010 with its Alliance Partners and user groups to ensure that the dock is a success—broadly embraced and utilized by the community—and serves as the model and catalyst for subsequent docks throughout the region.


Ferry Transit Program

Fast, comfortable, and efficient, ferries can speed passengers to their destinations on the wide-open waterways, virtually unaffected by the congestion, power outages, labor strikes, or other events that can cripple other modes of transit. Ferries boast the ability to reach communities underserved by subways, while attracting tourists and economic development to the waterfront neighborhoods surrounding increasingly busy ferry terminals. And the capital costs required to launch new ferry service pale in comparison to the price tag for new rail or road networks.

With the January 2013 launch of our new Ferry Transit Program, the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance is now the primary non-governmental advocate for expanded and enhanced ferry service in New York City. We have spearheaded a two-pronged advocacy strategy, engaging City Council members and public officials to facilitate policy shifts and secure future government subsidy, as well as organizing grassroots ferry campaigns in neighborhoods that could benefit from ferry service.

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