Manhattan is an island—some would say a landlocked island—and grew to prominence because of its harbor, but like many American cities, New York seems to avoid its waterways. Over the past decades, ferry and water taxi service has made an impressive reappearance on the city’s rivers—but along the way an evident problem has arisen. By definition, ferry landings are located at the edge of the city, usually in windy, exposed waterside sites that offer an unpleasant and discouraging experience for passengers waiting for a ferry or for connecting surface transit.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival in New York harbor and discovery of the Hudson River. Over the past few years, under the leadership of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial, a consortium of New York civic groups—including the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance and the Hudson River Foundation—have been developing plans for a system of “Quad Landings”: floating docks designed to allow access to and from the water for a wide variety of vessels, from ferries and water taxis to sailboats, kayaks, and other craft.
Building on this initiative, James Biber and James Sanders of James Sanders + Associates have developed Riverways, a practical, economical, and flexible system of elements that allow water access where there is currently none, or enhance ferry and water-taxi landings that already exist. Though relatively small in scale, these elements are intended to provide crucial points of linkage, integrating the region’s water and land transportation into a single unified system, and opening the city’s waters for recreation to the immense populations adjacent to them. The proposal is designed to increase access to the water for communities frustrated by their proximity to magnificent waterways that can be seen but not touched.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, American cities and towns arose around their waterways, which not only linked them to the larger world but interconnected the communities themselves. In the second half of the 20th century, cities turned away from their waterfronts, leaving behind hundreds of miles of urban edge with little or no life. Over the last twenty years, cities have begun a dramatic return to the water. But many communities have no way to reach the water’s surface at all. Even where they do exist, landings for ferries and water taxis are typically exposed, inhospitable and devoid of any urban amenities, discouraging their use or expansion.
1. Provide shelter at the water’s edge;
2. Create an iconic structure, visible from the water and land side, with an acknowledgment of the Hudson Quadricentennial;
3. Allow rapid deployment, flexible configuration and cost effective points along the entire Hudson from Albany to the New York Harbor.
The basic design of the Riverways landings consists of a floating dock and a matching landside platform, placed beneath two matching canopy structures. The retractable canopy elements provide shelter from rain and sun, serve as highly visible markers, celebrate the transition from land to water, and provide the setting and context for a wide range of purposes, including transit, recreational access, and activation. A flexible kit of parts approach allows the basic “H”-shaped design to adapt to a variety of activities, site conditions and communities. The modular system is affordable and easy to install.
The iconic structure, a reference to sailing ships with tall masts, rigging and sails, is not only visible from a distance, but unique along the water’s edge. In addition, the structural pair of “H’s” are an embedded reference to Henry Hudson, a kind of giant HH logo.