Sherman Creek Waterfront

Sherman Creek was once a wooded cove on the Harlem River where people gathered for fishing, water and recreation. Over the years the marshlands were largely filled, armored with a seawall and became the site of heavy industry. Today these industries, a power plant and city maintenance yards block the river from the Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods.

Yet these industries provide local jobs and services the community needs, and the depressed land values allow for schools, churches, clubs and affordable living mixed in with industry. A prior plan by the city to rezone the area for housing fell flat, out of fears of gentrification and loss of jobs. The challenge was to develop a design that would give new access to the river, create an accessible waterfront edge, restore habitats and provide for incremental redevelopment. The seawall and banks were in disrepair and not stable; yet this same river edge supports the most active collegiate and private rowing activity in the city and is heavily used by local fisherman catching striped bass.

The key idea was to create a continuous walkable edge for fishing and enjoyment of the water, using a series of different techniques to give access, restore the banks, and build healthy aquatic and riparian habitats. Over time, land uses may change but for now there is no conflict between existing uses and a new riverfront.

The project was developed with a series of community and stakeholder meetings, which helped define the balance between community enhancement and social stability. The plan has been approved and efforts are underway to secure initial funding.

Client: New York Economic Development Corporation
Collaborators: WXY Architecture
Completion: 2012
Budget: $600,000 plan