We’re a week away from the unofficial first day of summer, which means New Yorkers will join fellow Americans in enjoying Memorial Day weekend in gardens, parks, pools and beaches. The latter are abundant in New York, which has 520 miles of coastline; if all those serene marshy coves, Atlantic shores, and fetid industrial canals were pieced together, they would be about the same length as the drive from Manhattan to Raleigh, North Carolina.
Most of us know roughly where the nearest body of water is, but it’s not always clear which spaces are open to the public and what activities are allowed there. Luckily, the New York City Department of Planning (DCP) is here to help with a new report and updated map of the waterfront.
As its title suggests, Assessing New Yorkers’ Access to NYC’s Waterfront profiles accessible areas adjacent to city water, with information on whether it’s acceptable to fish, kayak, picnic , hiking or sunbathing topless. (For the record, the latter is legal on all New York public beaches, even though prudish Rockaways cops say otherwise.) The new report complements the agency’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, released last year, which outlines challenges and opportunities for the coast.
The release of the report on May 20 coincides with an update to the DCP’s waterfront access map. First released in 2018, the map offers New Yorkers a digital atlas of beach and riverfront access in the five boroughs. As well as telling you what you can do at each site, the map also shows how you can get there on foot, by bike or by public transport.
In a municipality comprised primarily of three islands and… the Bronx, most of the city’s 8.5 million residents live fairly close to the water: DCP planners found that 80% of the population lives within 30 minutes by train or bus from the waterfront. This figure includes the 3 million New Yorkers who live half a mile or less from a body of water, with two of those 3 million living half a mile away. mile from a waterfront park or green space.
But proximity does not guarantee equal or equitable access, the city noted. Advocacy organizations like the Waterfront Alliance echoed this point and called for more to be done to expand access:
“While we celebrate the many new waterfront access points created in recent years, some communities do not have adequate access due to old industrial sites on the water, zoning and a history of disinvestment in underserved communities. Additionally, opportunities to physically engage in the water through boating and even swimming are very limited in New York City,” said Karen Imas, Vice President of Programs at Waterfront. Alliance, in a press release. “We commend City Planning for exploring avenues to open up new waterfronts and connect communities to local waterfronts. There are still miles of coastline entirely unused and cut off from communities and we look forward to working with New York City to bring the full benefits of open space, green infrastructure and recreational opportunities to the communities that need it most. need.
For those looking to plan a trip at home or on the go, the Waterfront Access Map is accessible on desktop computers and mobile devices.