On Monday, July 15th, the Human Impacts Institute set up in the East River State Park on the patio right by the river to ask people a simple question; If you could re-design our waterfront, what would you change?
We brought an interactive visual that would give passers-by just that opportunity. The visual included a picture of the East River drawn on a magnetic white board and a collection of diverse magnets to stick onto the board next to the river. The magnets ranged from pictures of the new East River Waterfront Esplanade and Eco-Park in Lower Manhattan; to café’s, bike share stations, the Manhattan Greenway Initiative to the Con Edison Generating Plant, and even some international offshore water initiatives, such as Sweden’s plans for offshore windmill farms.
Despite having so much to choose from, the people who stopped by often already had a strong vision of what they wanted to see on their waterfront, and only needed to add one or two magnets to represent that vision. One woman added our magnet of a bike path, emphasizing that “we need more places to bike” and in general, greater public access to our waterfronts. She was happy to learn that the first part of the East River Waterfront Esplanade recently opened as part of a greater initiative by the city to create more public spaces at the waterfront. Children stopped by HII’s table as well, curious about our magnet of the ConEd Generating Plant, spewing smoke into the air. They asked why something like that was on our whiteboard on “ideal rivers” and we answered that it was because the ConEd plant already exists on our river. However, that was also why we offered participants the option to take down magnets of the things they wouldn’t want on their waterfront.
By the time we finished and started packing up to go, the sun was setting on the East River and formed an iconic image with one of the park’s solar panels standing tall as a part of the waterfront. It was so perfect I had to snap a photo before I left. Who knows, maybe we can print it onto a magnet for our next activity with the waterfront whiteboard.
For more information on upcoming events and community workshops visit HII’s website.
By Anna Poon, Human Impacts Institute Education Intern