This website represents an ongoing and mainly visual effort to document the many dozens of natural sand beaches of New York Harbor. Largely unknown to the public, and frequently uncharted, these beaches are tangible reminders of the thriving estuary and public space that the harbor used to be--and could be again.
Beaches are great because they soften the edge of a shoreline that is now mostly concrete and stone. They absorb storm and wake energy, function as natural filters for runoff, and make prime habitat for wildlife, including shellfish and shorebirds. For people, they offer an unobstructed link between land and water, and provide practical and attractive destinations for strolling, fishing and launching and landing small, human and wind-powered boats. As a group, these beaches—which lie within the public domain, at least below the mean high water mark--constitute one of the greatest and most overlooked open-space opportunities we have left.
Some harbor beaches have been there forever, some are nascent, and more than a few are subject to encroachment by commercial and residential waterfront development. Beyond trying to build a constiuency for them, one idea here is to begin to construct a rudimentary baseline of data on the state of the waterfront—something that could be a useful tool for planners, researchers and concerned citizens. In that regard, it may be useful to know that, unless otherwise indicated, all of the aerial photos on this site were taken on the same day, July 10, 2005, at or near low tide.
A few caveats:
First, there are a lot more beaches out there. These are just the obvious ones that I found while traveling by foot, bike and ferry from Lower Manhattan. There are many others out there that I have yet to see: in Queens, Brooklyn and New Jersey, which are underrepresented here, and on Staten Island and in the Bronx, which are barely represented at all.
Second, while I hope this site is inspirational, it is NOT intended to be a boating guide or an inducement to trespass. If you want to get on the water or step over a fence to visit one of these places, great—but please know the rules and please know what you are doing, or go with someone who does. One incident caused by an inexperienced or ill-prepared boater could deal a big blow to the whole cause of public access to the waterways.
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