What do these topics all have in common?
They dominated our headlines in 2006 as our coasts, oceans and waterfronts became a major political, scientific and social area of concern.
The past year brought national and worldwide recognition to the severe degradation of the species, habitats and communities that surround our coastal ecosystem. Simultaneous reports by the US Commission on Ocean Policy and Pew Oceans Commission (now the Joint Ocean Commission) revealed that we are truly at a tipping point for our water-based natural resources, calling for swift and immediate action by our political, academic and business leaders.
Closer to home, Combined Sewer Overflows or CSOs, dominated the news and focus of the NY – NJ Harbor Bight’s coastal managers. The goal – to prevent over 600 outfalls from dumping a mixture of raw sewage and runoff into our estuaries during wet weather storms with rainfall over one-half of an inch. The challenge – how to upgrade treatment plants and reduce stormwater flow upstream to improve water quality at a price the city and its citizens can afford.
Another major issue in 2006 was that of Public Access to the Waterfront. One inventive concept by Ann Buttenwieser created a Floating Pool that will allow people to get near (and in) the water now resides at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Others organizations, such as Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, worked to examine just how accessible our waterfronts actually are by mapping all of the access points in the urban estuary.
Finally, following on quickly rising oil prices and our nations “addiction” to petroleum, different forms of Renewable Energy came to the forefront. In many cases, these included using the powers of the oceans and our coasts to improve sustainability in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Wind farm proposals were put on the table up-and-down the coast, tidal power pilot projects were introduced in the East River and Liquid Natural Gas facilities were planned for just offshore Sandy Hook and the Long Island Sound.
In 2006, the Coastal Marine Resource Center continued to examine the progress of the above issues, among others, and work to implement sustainable solutions for our habitats and communities with conservation of the Harbor Bight in mind. This included partnering with policy-makers, coastal managers, academic researchers and community, business and environmental leaders to increase awareness of the challenges facing our coasts and oceans.
Our Harbor Bight Policy Program worked with our regional and national leaders to research and develop plans for coastal conservation. In addition, the CMRC worked to catalog the responsibilities of these agencies and officials though our Policy Project Minding the Shore: Who is Responsible? which included the following in 2006 (click link for more information):
- New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program
- New York State Division of Coastal Resources
- New Jersey's Coastal Management Program
- New York City Council Committee on Waterfronts
- New York City Audubon's Harbor Herons Project
- Mayor's Office of Sustainability
In addition, our Sustainable Coasts Program worked to better integrate the natural resources of our waterfronts and oceans with the social capital found in our communities. In Asbury Park, our work translated directly into increased access and economic opportunity for low-income residents in the City. Our Exploring Our Coasts & Waterfronts project continued to document the assets and challenges of waterfront communities both locally and worldwide:
- Gowanus Canal
- Jamaica Bay
- East River Park
- Hunts Point
- Governors Island
- Staten Island
- Brooklyn Bridge Park
- Sunset Park
- Asbury Park
- South Shore Estuary
- Rincon, Puerto Rico
One of the biggest accomplishments for the CMRC in 2006 was the introduction of the Business Stewardship Initiative, a project aimed at bringing together the resources of the private sector with local conservation efforts. Over 100 business and environmental leaders joined together during our workshops and speaker series to discuss the opportunities and outline a strategy for increased collaboration. In addition, the CMRC began efforts to implement its Volunteer Network and Stewards of the Estuary Recognition Program, both of which will be major initiatives of the organization in the upcoming year.
The most exciting venture to evolve out of the Business Stewardship Initiative in 2006 was a joint Green Roofs Project with the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corp. The project aims to assist local businesses in the area with the planning and implementation of green roofs as a means for increasing energy efficiency and reducing stormwater runoff. The project is currently in planning stages and had identified a local business partner. Stay tuned for more in 2007!
As well, the CMRC, in coordination with Key-East Consulting and Fallout Pictures Kicked off its Virtual Estuary Project in 2006. This multi-media effort, the first of its kind nationwide, will use the current explosion of online visual media to transport students and residents directly to the estuary. Podcasts, interactive maps and even educational games will assist with educating the public on the vast natural resources that exist in our urban metropolitan region and the conservation challenges facing our shores.
Finally, the CMRC had a little fun in 2006. We were able to work with several high profile individuals and businesses to raise awareness for coastal conservation in the NY – NJ ecosystem. In July, International Recording Artist Moby brought his enthusiasm to the stage in support of the CMRC’s efforts, rocking a packed house at East River Park. Our recent end of year Waterfront Luau in Dumbo celebrated a “Superfine” year in coastal conservation. Companies such as Patagonia, Nautica, Brooklyn Brewery, Zipcar, Shift your Gift, Interrupcion, Aveda, Jurlique, Rough Guides, Outside Magazine and 3R Living all provided some greatly appreciated support to make both events a success.
The CMRC will continue to work with our dedicated staff, members, volunteers and partners to put forth a clear and viable plan for advancing the conservation of our coasts, oceans and waterfronts in 2007. It’s apparent that the issues surrounding our waters have come to the surface. Now the challenge will be planning and financing solutions to these concerns.
The CMRC pledges to be at the forefront of coastal planning and policy to assure that resources are made available for the conservation of habitats and communities in the Harbor Bight.
See you in the water!