Ideas for redesigning New York's waterfront almost invariably involve ways to make the edges of the city more accessible to the rivers and harbor surrounding it, and drawing its population towards them. The winner of the Reimagining the Waterfront competition sponsored by Civitas turned that orientation on its head. Joseph Wood, an architecture student at Syracuse University, took first prize for designing a plan to invite the waterfront into a number of city streets along the East River, and criss-crossing those streets-turned-canals with boardwalks.
The Civitas competition was meant to elicit ideas on revitalizing Manhattan's East Side waterfront between 60th and 125th Streets. Access to the waterfront in this area mostly consists of Bobby Wagner Walk, a crumbling but otherwise pleasant promenade along the East River that suffers most from its proximity to cars speeding past on the FDR Drive. Another shortcoming of the walk is that it divorces users almost completely from the water. Fishing is possible from the edge of the waterfront bulwark that sharply delineates island from river, but even boating clubs have to make use of a swinging winch and crane system to raise and lower small craft into the East River.
Joseph Wood's design blurred that sharp line between the river's edge and the city. His canals invite the East River into Manhattan and a series of tiered aquatic plantings would filter storm runoff flowing into the water. Runner-up Takuma Ona envisioned a series of boardwalks along the waterfront that increased residents' access to the water and created "ecological infrastructures." Third-place winner Matteo Rossetti designed a plan that encouraged community engagement. His writing stations would solicit community ideas for waterfront redevelopment that would then be implemented.
The winning plans and those that received Honorable Mentions will be on display at The Museum of the City of New York from June 6 through September.