Four organizations that were leaders in the Westway fight are still working to save the Hudson River from risky, environmentally destructive, and financially ruinous development today: Clean Air Campaign and its Open Rivers Project (212-582-2578, Marcy Benstock); Friends of the Earth (212-243-1022, Bunny Gabel); NYPIRG (212-349-6460, Gene Russianoff); and the Sierra Club (518-426-9144).
Westway was a plan for a multi-billion dollar highway and river development project to be built in the Hudson River off lower Manhattan and along its shore. Landfill and platforms were to be used to create 177 acres of developable land in and over the river, and some of Westway’s 12-14 traffic lanes were to be partially tunneled through the fill. Plans to use $1.725 billion in federal Interstate highway funds to start building “Westway I” were canceled in September 1985, after the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to de-fund Westway’s development site in the River, and Westway’s Army Corps permits to build in the River were declared illegal by the federal courts. The $1.725 billion in federal grants that had been available for Westway were then used to help turn New York City’s decrepit mass transit system around, and build a bikeway, walkways and more affordable road along the River.
A small but wealthy and powerful group of Westway supporters then immediately began trying to build the Westway development site in the Hudson River a different way. Then and now they marketed this in-water real estate venture as a park. Post-Westway plans to piecemeal a vast development site up and down the River relied on a combination of new or rebuilt piers, platforms, and other fills and structures, which would then be provided with the infrastructure needed to accomodate buildings. The NY State Urban Development Corporation’s (UDC’s) 1971 Wateredge plan to tap a wide variety of public and private funds to build a massive and exorbitant development site out in the River eventually morphed into the so-called Hudson River Park (HRP) project.
The Hudson River Park (HRP) project now includes both a popular ribbon of green open space on roughly 60 acres of dry land (“upland”) at the River’s edge, and a 490-acre in-water portion in the River itself, between Battery Park City’s northern edge (near Chambers Street) and W. 59th Street extended, from the River’s edge out to the U.S. Pierhead Line roughly 1,000-1,500 feet offshore. Some groups call this in-water portion of the HRP project “Son-of-Westway.” A powerful, unaccountable public authority, the so-called Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT), currently has jurisdiction over the entire 550 acres: both the popular green park on 60 acres of upland, and the 490 acres of the River where piecemealed development sites and view-blocking buildings have been funded with roughly $500 million in public funds so far.
Superstorm Sandy has lent new urgency to citizen efforts to save the lower Hudson River from development, as some politicians seek to misspend Sandy aid and other taxpayer funds to keep on building development sites, public buildings etc. in and over the River. This ruinous public policy would put more people (including first responders) in harm’s way in upcoming storms and hurricanes, and risk catastrophic property damage and liability and disaster recovery claims in a stretch of the River designated a #1 (highest risk) hurricane evacuation zone.
Misleading spin about Westway, the HRP project, the HRPT authority, the misuse of Sandy aid etc. has been widespread. This site is intended to separate facts from opinions, be factually accurate, and have links to relevant documents. It takes no advertising and receives no funding from government or large corporations or nonprofits. The site is supported solely by organizations and individual citizens committed to protecting the physical integrity of rivers, wetlands and coastal waters and other existing, naturally occurring habitats and ecosystems; who want to preserve the great bedrock environmental and other laws designed to protect Mother Nature’s natural systems; who seek wiser, fairer public spending priorities; and who want our governments to be more open, democratic, and accountable to ordinary citizens, not just a wealthy and powerful few.
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