The Hudson County Waterfront Walkway Partnership Committee met Tuesday in Bayonne to discuss and devise implementation strategies for the creation of a unified waterfront walkway from the tip of Bayonne to the George Washington Bridge.
Even though most of the meeting was spent discussing projects in Bayonne, there is a very significant underlyng importance to this meeting and recent meetings like it.
This is the second meeting of the Waterfront Walkway Partnership Committee. The first was two months ago in Hoboken. Before the committee's creation, there was a state law that required developers on the Hudson River to contribute to a continuous waterfront walkway, but there was little cooperative effort between municipalities to make sure that the walkway was seamless.
That's where the partnership committee comes in. According to Steven Marks of the Hudson County Office of Strategic Revitalization, the committee will act as the advisory body to the county freeholders and the individual cities in regards to the formation and creation of a Hudson River Waterfront Walkway Implementation Plan.
"The purpose of [the committee] is to find a common consensus and to create and agenda between the municipalities and stakeholders [in the waterfront walkway]," said Marks Tuesday.
The construction of the proposed 30-foot-wide, 18-mile long public walkway is now finished on more than 11 miles of the Hudson River. When all 18 miles are complete, the public will be able to walk or bike along the Jersey side of the river. Developers building on private waterfront land are required, by state law, to contribute to the walkway.
The concept for a walkway was first proposed by the Regional Plan Association in 1966. The Department of Environmental Protection adopted regulations in 1980 requiring owners seeking to develop the waterfront to construct and maintain the walkway and provide public access. In 1988, the Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy was created to over see the walkway's future.
Marks added that the committee will pay special attention to the "gap" or "orphan" sites. Those are the areas where there is no walkway and there are no current or adopted plans for one. The partnership is also saddled with the task of discussing and deliberating on issues of importance and common concern with regard to design principals, policies and planning issues, such as: access, amenities, connectivity, finance, land-use, operation maintenance, safety and security.
Finally, the committee will endorse action-strategies to expedite construction and completion for a continuos walkway along the river.
The partnership is expected to produce a comprehensive plan for the construction, completion and maintenance of the walkway, with feedback from the public and other stakeholders. The plan will specify activities to achieve the stated goals and establish deadlines for the completion of each task.
The body is made up of partners from various state agencies, local government and non-profit organizations including the New jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Hudson County, all waterfront municipalities, the Hudson River Property owners and Conservators Association, and the Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy of New Jersey.
Most of Tuesday's meeting was spent talking about how to open up Bayonne's waterfront to the public. Even though Bayonne has been a peninsula for over a century, a large amount of its waterfront has not been accessible to the public because and industrial and military installations.
Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria said Tuesday that he personally has two goals when it comes to the waterfront walkway. The first is to make his waterfront accessible. "One of the frustrations of the residents of Bayonne is that for too long they have not had adequate access to New York Harbor," said Doria. He also said that it is important that county and city officials work together to make sure that the walkway is a viable and uniform throughout the county. "We must work in cooperative effort so that we have the type of walkway that all of the residents of Hudson County can use," he said.
At the meeting, two major projects in Bayonne were discussed. The first was the redevelopment of the former Military Ocean Terminal (MOTBY) into The Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, a 430-acre manmade peninsula that will be transformed from a military facility into as mixed-use community with housings, commercial and recreational facilities.
According to Nicholas Chiaravalloti of the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority, 40 to 50 acres of the site will be passive or active open space. That includes a waterfront walkway that is fully accessible to the public. Chiaravalloti added that while approved, the project is still very much in the "embryo" stage and will take 10 to 15 years to complete.
The second project that was discussed was the development of 470 acres of former industrial land south of MOTBY. The land is being developed by OENJ Cherokee and will house a golf course. According to Leslie Mesnick of OENJ Cherokee, the golf course will be completed by 2004 and will have 7,000-foot walkway that will be fully publicly accessible.