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New York City on the cutting edge with WEDG

By Steven Spinola

New York has always been a city of water, and now there’s an important initiative to establish and promote best practices at the water’s edge.

Steven Spinola

Steven Spinola

For the last fifteen years, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification has been the world’s most widely recognized and used system for rating green buildings. According to the U.S. Green Building Council’s recent rankings, New York is rated among the top ten states in the nation in terms of square feet of certified LEED space per resident. REBNY members proudly represent the many environmentally conscious developers who are constantly working to keep New York a global leader in sustainability and climate change resiliency.

There’s now a new tool, a complement to LEED, that is already being put to good use to improve planning and design, specifically for waterfront projects. It’s called Waterfront Edge Design Guidelines (WEDG) and it is the brainchild of some smart people at the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (MWA). Like LEED, WEDG is an incentive-based program that taps into our better nature for higher achievement. But WEDG is also an open source menu of waterfront best practices for stakeholders, and is a communications tool helping developers, regulators, design professionals, civic and grassroots organizations, and elected and local government officials speak the same language about what can be done to make our waterfront a better place.

Why WEDG, when we already have LEED? WEDG addresses issues that are unique to waterfront properties and is necessary because we cannot afford to develop the shoreline as we have in the past. One of the many lessons Superstorm Sandy taught us is that we must reevaluate how we build at the water’s edge, with more emphasis than ever on resiliency and safety.

When developers build on a public resource such as the water’s edge, there’s a responsibility to the surrounding communities. WEDG will serve as a vehicle to create dialogue between all community stakeholders for the best waterfront designs possible.

WEDG includes guidelines and a scorecard for three types of developments: residential and commercial, parks and open space, and industrial/maritime, and is applicable to urban waterfront development in New York City and the surrounding region. The ultimate goal of WEDG is to promote and achieve real waterfront change, and offer a useful resource for decision makers to create more equitable, resilient, and ecologically beneficial waterfronts.

In addition to positively influencing waterfront design, WEDG provides numerous additional benefits. It results in improved community relations during project development, financial savings by decreasing risks and vulnerability on the waterfront, an improved the permitting process and faster project planning and construction, and better communication of regulatory expectations. For concerned citizens, civic groups, and elected officials, WEDG serves as a common vernacular as projects go from an idea to construction.

WEDG certification has already awarded to four notable projects, demonstrating its use for all types of waterfronts. The Sims Sunset Park Materials Recovery Facility received the first-ever WEDG certification at the MWA’s annual Heroes of the Harbor Awards Dinner this past October. This facility provides enduring resiliency, improved ecology, and engaging public access, all within an industrial/maritime use.

Another industrial/maritime project, the Sandy Hook Pilots Association headquarters that is being rebuilt on the North Shore of Staten Island after their facility was destroyed during Superstorm Sandy, has also been WEDG-certified. Brooklyn Bridge Park also exemplifies the principles of WEDG by expertly balancing and supporting ecology and access, while paying particular attention to sustainability. Finally, the Two Trees’ Domino Sugar site, which reconnects South Williamsburg to its waterfront and focuses on public waterfront access, addresses the unique conditions along the East River—both current conditions and those expected due to climate change.

As New York becomes greener and more efficient, it is encouraging to see measures that recognize and reward these efforts. With more than 500 miles of coastline, New York City’s waterfront is a unique resource and one where a growing number of New Yorkers live, work, and play. And more than ever, we must also make sure that the waterfront becomes more accessible, resilient, safer, and ecologically beneficial. An exciting new program, WEDG is helping us take a big step towards that future. If interested in learning more, contact Michael Porto, MWA’s Director of Outreach and Planning, at [email protected]

In other REBNY news:
SPOTLIGHT ON TRANSPORTATION: Don’t miss our recent educational video on the critical role transportation infrastructure plays our region’s overall economic health and development. Visit rebny.com to watch our Chairman Rob Speyer and New York’s leading transportation experts discuss the role mass transit plays in the metropolitan area, major projects underway, and future challenges facing our transit system.

March 3rd is REBNY’s next breakfast workshop, “Maximize Your Lifetime Social Security Benefits!” from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Mendik Education Center. Social Security plays an increasingly important part in any retirement income strategy, and this workshop is designed to help you determine the role that Social Security can play in your particular retirement income strategy. Featuring guest speakers Katherine Sayer and Morgan C. Mulford, this seminar is a must for anyone seeking the best information from experts in the insurance and financial service fields. To RSVP, contact Katherine Sayer at [email protected], and please include your phone number and firm.

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