Part of nine new Great Waters designations for World Water Day
New York, NY – The America’s Great Waters Coalition, on World Water Day, designated nine new Great Waters, including the New York/New Jersey Harbor. Locally, the Harbor Coalition, who submitted the Harbor’s petition for national consideration, works to ensure the restoration of the New York/New Jersey Harbor in order to protect the region’s residents, its wildlife, and its economy. By advocating for adequate funding for restoration efforts, the Harbor Coalition also seeks to raise awareness and educate decision makers about the challenges facing the Harbor.
The New York/New Jersey Harbor is the largest port on the East Coast, serves as a critical freight hub for the region and supports more than 260,000 jobs and more than $12 billion to the region’s economy. “The New York/New Jersey Harbor is not only a vibrant port, but also a rich and diverse ecosystem right in our own backyard,” said Deborah A. Mans, executive director for the New York/New Jersey Baykeeper. “The Great Waters designation is a step towards ensuring our shared waters receive the recognition and investment needed to improve water quality, public access, and restoration and recreational opportunities for millions of people.”
From Raritan Bay to Jamaica Bay and up to the Tappan Zee Bridge, the waters of New York/New Jersey Harbor are critical to the Northeast region. These waterways are the lifeblood of our port, driving and supplying regional economies. The Harbor preserves our local and national heritage, and shapes the daily lives of the more than 18 million residents who live in the region. The Harbor provides essential aesthetic values, open space, recreational opportunities, and beautiful remnants of the area’s historic ecosystems. Surprisingly, despite hundreds of years of sprawling development, the harbor is still a key ecological link to the region and serves as a critical estuary for major populations of fish, birds, and threatened and endangered species. The Harbor is also located within the migratory route for millions of passing birds each autumn.
“The New York/New Jersey harbor is home to some of our country’s greatest historic treasures, including the Statue of Liberty and 14 other national park sites,” said Alexander Brash, Northeast senior regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “These national park sites, along with iconic landscapes stretching from Sandy Hook to the Hudson River Valley, are instrumental in helping to attract more than 48 million visitors each year who spend over $28 billion dollars in New York City alone.”
While investments made over the past several decades have greatly improved the New York/New Jersey Harbor’s water quality, and protect many of its remaining natural areas, there is still more to do. “The New York/New Jersey Harbor will greatly benefit from the Great Waters designation, particularly for the challenges posed by climate change,” said Eddie Bautista with the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “The unfortunate tendency of clustering heavy industry and infrastructure in storm surge zones is a clear and present threat to the resiliency of our most vulnerable waterfront communities, and the Great Waters designation promises to bring federal support to local efforts to correct these unsustainable and inequitable practices, and not a moment too soon.“
The Harbor Coalition believes that our waters should be clean enough to swim and fish. This calls for expanded and improved wastewater treatment plants and combined sewer overflow controls. Together, we must provide our residents with access to the waterfront and our children places to enjoy the outdoors, which requires restoring remaining but degraded open spaces, parkland, shorelines, wetlands and upland forests. Every resident deserves access to our waterfronts and great outdoor spaces, and new promenades and new parks will do just that. As a matter of justice, these spaces must be equitably spread throughout the Harbor, from Patterson Falls to Rockaway Beach.
With nearly $1billion for ongoing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ navigational dredging and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s recent announcement to dedicate more than $3 billion to waterfront development projects; federal and local investments toward tangible public projects aimed at cleaner water and parks have not been at an appropriate scale to make substantive improvements to the Harbor. As benchmarks, the President’s budget recently included significant funding for ecosystem restoration work around the Great Lakes ($300 million; on top of $475M in FY’10), Chesapeake Bay ($176 million), California Bay-Delta region ($155 million), the Everglades ($75 million), and the Gulf Coast ($27 million), while the New York/New Jersey Harbor was left dividing up $27 million from the EPA with 28 other estuary programs.
The recent Great Waters Coalition’s designation of the New York/New Jersey Harbor is a significant step forward for our region and confirms the Harbor’s standing as a major contributor to the region’s quality of life as well as its national significance and importance for all Americans. The newly formed Harbor Coalition encourages our regional Congressional representatives to join us as champions of the Harbor, and continue to push for the legislation and support necessary to ensure our waters are swimmable and fishable now and in the future.
About the Harbor Coalition: Less than a year ago, advocacy groups from around the New York/New Jersey Harbor joined to launch the Harbor Coalition. The coalition’s goals are to enjoin in a coordinated, sustained, and effective advocacy campaign that will seek the funding needed to revitalize, restore, and protect the New York/New Jersey Harbor and its waterfront. Supported by the J.M. Kaplan Fund and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the coalition includes the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Hudson River Foundation (HRF), Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC), Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (MWA), National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), NY/NJ Baykeeper, NYC Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC EJA), Regional Plan Association (RPA), The Trust for Public Land (TPL), and WE ACT for Environmental Justice (WE ACT).
About the Great Waters Coalition: Comprised of more than 50 national, regional, state and local organizations, the Great Waters Coalition is uniquely positioned to illustrate to the American public and decision makers that our water resources must become a national priority for the security of our economy and way of life. Three main goals drive the Coalition’s work: (1) making the restoration of our Great Waters a national priority, (2) securing sustainable dedicated funding for restoration, and (3) enacting and ensuring sound implementation of restoration. To learn more about the Great Waters Coalition, and to view a map of America’s Great Waters, please visit: www.nwf.org/greatwaters.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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