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BY HEATHER DUBIN | Get ready to hit the beach — in Manhattan! — with a super-close view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced the $7 million beach’s arrival in its future location as they stood under the Brooklyn Bridge near South and Dover Sts. last Thursday.
A part of the East River Blueway Plan — a scheme to increase waterfront access and storm protection — the creation of the Brooklyn Bridge Beach will receive $3.5 million in capital funding from Stringer’s office and a $3.5 million match from the City Council, which Quinn announced at the Aug. 1 press conference.
The 11,000-square-foot swath of sand will feature water activities — such as fishing and a kayak and canoe launch — tree-lined walkways, terraced seating and concession stands.
The beach’s development, along with the addition of new salt marshes and wetlands, will have more than recreational benefits, however.
“This will protect this community from the next big storm,” Stringer said.
Currently, the future site of the Brooklyn Bridge Beach is littered with trash and construction materials, and workers are still reconfiguring electrical power lines on nearby streets following last October’s Hurricane Sandy.
The dream of a revitalized waterfront has been part of an ongoing process that involved the neighborhood and local stakeholders.
“We worked with community partners to transform this East River waterfront,” Stringer said.
He added that the project spoke to community engagement and its needs.
As part of the process, Housing Authority residents from the Bernard Baruch and Lillian Wald Houses were asked for their input. So were representatives of the Lower East Side Ecology Center. Community Boards 1, 3 and 6 were asked for their ideas, and helped shape the plan over the past few years.
“Business development and access to waterfront — this is significant,” Stringer added.
“This is a great protection for New Yorkers against climate change,” Quinn said. She touted the plan’s “innovative design” and asserted it would “help spur economic growth post-Sandy.”
The project’s scope is to completely renovate the riverfront from the Brooklyn Bridge to E. 38th Street. But the beach bridge is certainly a signature feature of the plan.
“The redevelopment of Brooklyn Bridge Beach — it’s a premier ‘staycation’ as well as a destination,” Quinn said.
“In a dense urban area, we forget we have a great waterfront as a resource,” Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh said in his remarks.
He said the full project will be “a connector of different communities along the way,” but that more money and action will be needed to realize the plan in its entirety.
Kavanagh was instrumental in creating a free kayak launch in Stuyvesant Cove in August 2012, which Stringer noted was “a labor of love,” for Kavanagh.
Councilmember Daniel Garodnick, whose district doesn’t go below 14th St., noted he was “out of his district” at the press conference. But he said he well understood the “plight of the East Side being cut off from the river.”
“This Blueway plan is a road map to protect areas most vulnerable to flooding,” he said.
Garodnick has allocated $1 million for the kayak and canoe launch in Stuyvesant Cove, on the river between E. 18th and 23rd Sts.
“It will open up the river to a new generation of users,” he said of the small-vessel launch spot.
“I’m asking Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg to have the next kayaking race here in the river — and they’re judging,” Stringer said with a smile, to lots of laughs.
Daniel Tainow, education director at the Lower East Side Ecology Center, said, “We’re glad to be a part of the process for the Blueway plan.”
He alluded to “swimming as a possibility,” referring to future ideas for wading pools with water captured and filtered from the F.D.R. Drive’s runoff.
The planning for the East River Blueway was initiated in 2010, before the devastation of Superstorm Sandy showed how vulnerable waterfront areas like those along the Lower East Side, East Village and South Street Seaport are to storm surges and flooding.
“A lot of what we talked about is relevant,” Stringer noted. “Storm mitigation is very relevant. We have to look at this from a city perspective.”
The $7 million in combined funding, which Stringer dubbed a “down payment,” will almost cover the cost of the whole beach. The remainder of the Blueway project has not been funded.
New York received $15 billion in federal money for post-Sandy recovery and rebuilding. But the elected officials are hoping more government funds can be found to pay for the full East River Blueway.
“We are going to the state and federal government,” Stringer said. “We feel aggressive about getting funding for this plan. We were all here [during Sandy].”
“We want to get any bit of money we can,” Quinn added.
Asked by a reporter about the project’s future in a post-Bloomberg administration, Quinn replied quickly, “We’re good.”
She, of course, is running for mayor, and Stringer for city comptroller.
She vowed that people would soon be enjoying the beach, and joked that the only thing to worry about would be sunburn, adding that the sole requirement would be, “50 S.P.F. sunscreen for all.”
Quinn advocated for reclaiming the river for economic development, as well as the effective use of open space — and also for, well, fun.
“We’re a safer city and a more fun city,” she said. “Nothing says fun like Christine Quinn and Scott Stringer working together.”
No completion date for the beach project was given.