(Una version en Espanol esta aqui.)
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Did you know that three-fourths of Northern Manhattan is surrounded by water, yet Inwood residents do not have access to the Harlem River waterfront? Most of Brooklyn, Western Queens, and the entire West Side and most of the East Side of Manhattan have world-class waterfronts that promote recreational activity for residents and visitors alike. But what about the Inwood residents? Are we not New Yorkers, too?
Sherman Creek sits on the Harlem River and used to be a thriving hub for water-related activities but that changed in the early 1900s when the area became used for heavy industrial facilities. By the 1970s, Sherman Creek was totally blocked off to Inwood residents, and it remains that way today. Right now, we only have a bare concrete public pier at the end of Dyckman Street on the Hudson River and La Marina.
All of this could change if the city’s Inwood NYC neighborhood plan is approved this summer. The plan seeks to update how new development happens and will mandate that new properties along the waterfront build and maintain public open space. I believe that the Sherman Creek area and Harlem River waterfront are in need of housing and community spaces, as opposed to the all of the parking lots and other spaces that aren’t being used to their full potential.
At Friends of Sherman Creek we became very excited when we learned that the city was taking a fresh look at this initiative and we have been participating in all organized public meetings ever since. As long time advocates for Northern Manhattan waterfront parks, we are excited and highly optimistic about the possibilities this plan could bring. The last time we were this excited was in 2011 when NYCEDC published the Sherman Creek Waterfront Master Plan. The plan was based on a yearlong study of the area and extensive community input. Fast-forward to 2018, and guess what? Where the 2011 Sherman Creek Waterfront Master Plan called for a “clam farm” there now exists a thriving oyster garden.
It is my dream to one day see Inwood’s Harlem River waterfront full of boats, just like in Lake George, where one can dock and then walk to a local seafood restaurant or cafe. I would love to see 9th Avenue as a pedestrian boulevard, lined with food trucks, artist tents highlighting Northern Manhattan arts and crafts, as well as street musical performances—instead of the automotive shops that are currently polluting the Estuary.
I strongly believe that it’s critical that we prioritize waterfront open space and related infrastructure while creating affordable housing. Just like my good friend, the late Obie Bing, who knew the Sherman Creek area firsthand, tirelessly proclaimed that Northern Manhattan infrastructure must be rebuilt if first if any developments of any kind were to happen.
One of the main goals of Inwood NYC is to preserve the community’s affordability, create new job opportunities, and improve its livability by creating a waterfront that rivals Long Island City’s. To do this successfully, the city must also create home ownership opportunities for middle-class residents so that current and future generations stay in the community they helped build up through good times and bad. That is one of the most effective ways to preserve the fabric of our special community from a potential tidal wave of gentrification.
Obed Fulcar is the founder and director of Friends of Sherman Creek Conservancy Inc.