‘Vision plans’ propose upgrades at estuaries 1

A rendering of the “Queens Water Exploration Center” proposed in a new “vision plan” for Flushing’s waterways released by environmental advocates and the architecture and design firm Perkins+Will. Another vision plan was made for Newtown Creek.

Environmental advocates have advanced some creative ideas for bringing new life to Newtown Creek and Flushing waterways.

Guardians of Flushing Bay, advocacy group Riverkeeper and architecture and design firm Perkins + Will had a series of meetings with area stakeholders, gathering input for a “vision plan” for dramatically changing Flushing Bay and Creek.

They revealed the ideas March 15 at the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

“This plan, and the plans for an ecology center and boathouse, showcases not only how Flushing Waterways can become an engine of economic revitalization, but also a vital, world-class waterway,” Guardians of Flushing Bay board member Akila Simon said in a prepared statement.

The Newtown Creek plan saw Riverkeeper and Perkins + Will partnering with the Newtown Creek Alliance and gathering public input from communities near that estuary.

The plans for Flushing’s waterways and Newtown Creek each feature dozens of recommendations about how to enhance the role played by the estuaries in the communities near them. For the Flushing waterways, the suggestions include creating a large oyster reef in the water near LaGuardia Airport and creating a “Queens Water Exploration Center.”

It would be a 40,000 square-foot facility situated on the western side of Flushing Bay, with docking space for the vessels used in the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival of New York. There would also be space to launch from the beach in front of the building.

According to a spokesperson for Perkins + Will, the center would also serve as an educational facility where there would be space for research.

Guardians of Flushing Bay coordinator Korin Tangtrakul said while it would be a great idea, she’s not expecting the QWEC to become a reality soon. The purpose of creating the vision plan, she explained, wasn’t about achieving immediate goals.

“It kind of makes a vision for us to always refer back to in future planning scenarios,” she said.

Running between Brooklyn and Queens, Newtown Creek is a highly polluted estuary that the U.S. government designated a Superfund site in 2010.

According to Newtown Creek Alliance Program Manager Willis Elkins, the vision plan for the creek imagines what roles the estuary could play after it’s cleaned up and how it could be “more of an asset.”

The recommendations in the creek’s plan include the restoration of salt marshes and installing oyster cages, as well as green infrastructure like permeable pavers on land that would capture stormwater in parking lots that drains into them from industrial zones by the estuary.

Like Tangtrakul, Elkins doesn’t have unrealistic hopes about the plan’s recommendations. “The project was not to really put forth a step by step plan for what we want to see,” he said, “but to rather keep this conversation going about imagining how things can be improved here.”

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