Waterfront Revitalization: Bringing People Back To The Byram River

Port Chester's waterfront isn't much of a destination. The village hopes to change that with a revitalization plan.

When people think of waterfronts, they usually picture sunny beaches, secluded fishing spots, parkland with beautiful vistas and marinas buzzing with activity.

Port Chester's waterfront is characterized by other things: Pollution, murky water, parking lots and abandoned industrial buildings.

What's the best way to revitalize the waterfront and bring people back to the shores of the Byram River?

For that, the village seeks public input: the Waterfront Commission will hold its first public workshop next Wednesday, Feb. 29, at the Senior Center on Grace Church Street.

The workshop will include roundtable discussions, slide presentations and an overview of the revitalization plan's working draft, a 136-page document that details the waterfront's history, its environmental conditions, current uses, and challenges in converting stretches of the waterfront into inviting public spaces.

Port Chester's roots are as an industrial village, and that history is evident along the waterfront, where long-vacant buildings have been decaying for decades.

"Many structures, including houses, warehouses and the industrial buildings, are old and deteriorated and date from a period when the waterfront was commercially active," the waterfront draft reads. "Many of these structures are not well-built and it is likely that building regulations on the waterfront were never well controlled."

That includes the Fox Island peninsula, which "includes garages, an abandoned
incinerator, outdoor storage of vehicles, machinery and materials, windrows of leaves, and a closed landfill."

Throughout the village are signs that planners, property owners and elected leaders have long viewed the waterfront as a liability, not an asset -- aside from the docks, public access to the waterfront is extremely limited. And where municipalities like Tarrytown take advantage of their waterfront space with sloping streets showing off waterfront vistas, most of Port Chester's waterfront views are obstructed or terminate in decidedly less-scenic places like parking lots.

But the waterfront can be an asset, the draft notes, and local leaders hope waterfront revitalization can mirror the progress in downtown. That includes everything from redevelopment to environmental clean-up.

The revitalization plan draft, by New York City-based BFJ Planning, catalogs everything from aesthetic value and access points, to water and air quality. The draft also details state requirements for coastal areas, and obligations the local government is required to meet to satisfy environmental concerns.

Read the meeting announcement and a PDF copy of the draft plan here.

Next week's workshop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 29 at the Senior Community Center, 222 Grace Church St. If you can't make the meeting, but still want to weigh in on revitalization efforts, village clerk Joan Mancuso is accepting written correspondence for the project.

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