The New York/New Jersey Harbor, the system of waterways we see off the Hudson County coast every day, has been tapped for a “Great Waters” designation by the Great Waters Coalition. The coalition, made up of more than 50 national, regional, state, and local organizations, works to secure funding to restore and preserve the waterways.
A local group known as the Harbor Coalition submitted the petition for national consideration. Among the ten members is the NY/NJ Baykeepr.
According to Greg Remaud, Baykeeper deputy director, the group hopes to get funding similar to that allocated to the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, California Bay, and the Everglades.
Currently there is no funding but if it should materialize, he wants it to go to worthy local efforts.
“We want folks in Jersey City and locally to have a say in how the money is spent.” – Greg Remaud
Like Liberty State Park.
“Funding is incomplete for a huge interior restoration,” Remaud said. The funds would be used to restore freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, grasslands, and forested land.
And the Sixth Street Embankment.
At first glance, this elevated stone structure that once held tracks for the Pennsylvania Railroad may not seem like a candidate for water resource money, but it terminates at the end of Sixth Street, hooking up with the Hudson River Walkway by Newport Center. It’s an important link between Hamilton Park and Harsimus Cove.
Funds would “help acquire and create public access for the embankment” someday, Remaud said.
Lincoln Park West is another area that could be improved with funding. That is where a public golf course is being built by Hudson County and Remaud said that the county’s plan for a natural restoration preserve with boardwalks is currently underfunded and would need more money to get to the finish line.
Reservoir Number 3, a popular area for fishing and boating near Central Avenue in the Heights, is also looking for funding for additional natural restoration.
“The idea is for money to go to projects like these,” Remaud said. “We want folks in Jersey City and locally to have a say in how the money is spent locally, not just top down but bottom up.”
The Harbor Coalition is in its formative stage, so it’s too early to predict when funding might become available.
The big picture
Alexander Brash, Northeast senior regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, believes in collaboration.
The Great Waters designation “is a result of a coalition of nonprofit groups in the region that came together to say that we need a joint look at our harbor, waterfront, and development,” he said. “Together we created a shared vision of the future.”
One goal is to get public servants on board. “We’re asking elected leaders to come together around this vision to bring it home,” Brash said.
The harbor is seen as a water resource that does two things: Drive the economy and improve the quality of life for residents who live near its shores.
“Teamsters and others support us in developing the harbor to stay as an economic drive,” Brash said. “It’s a crossroads for freight distribution, and we also want residents to have access to it. Just as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spent billions to deepen the harbor, we want to get significant similar funds invested in things like redoing the promenade in Jersey City.”
Brash noted that usually, a specific project would get its own funds, not as part of a group.
“In the past, individual projects moved ahead through earmarks,” Brash said, “whether it was adding a fish ladder in the Raritan Bay or cleaning up the Bronx River, they were not a tide lifting all boats.”
The vision is for a combined effort.
“Instead of doing a piece here or there, we want a singular large plan to move forward, building a caucus with the Congress members of two states, and key cities and counties,” Brash said. “We need to come up with a plan to combine federal, state, and local funds at all levels.”
Change is expected in the near future.
“Moving forward with a clean, green plan to economically support the harbor under one umbrella” should happen within the next couple of decades, according to Brash.
The fortunes of the harbor are tied to the fortunes of young people moving to our area.
“It’s abundantly clear in Jersey City and around the country that with the advent of technology, people are not necessarily tied to manufacturing hubs,” Brash said. “Younger people move around, and cities have to be competitive.”
He noted that cities like Austin, Boston, San Antonio, and Seattle have thrived while cities like Detroit have not.
“Those cities have substantially invested in quality of life,” Brash said. “Those improvements attract businesses and people.”
And the health of the harbor is a major factor in success.
“Embracing the waterfront regions, our greatest asset, is a major step in that effort,” Brash said. “That includes cleaner and clearer water and greener landscapes.”
Kate Rounds can be reached at email@example.com..