Columbia University to open up waterfront for new parkland
by Daniel P. Bader
Right now it's mostly water, and some parking spaces. But if Columbia University gets its way, an acre of land and water adjacent to Inwood Hill Park will become a freshwater marsh with a boardwalk that is open to the public.
Representatives from the university floated the idea before the Community Board 12 Land Use Committee in September and the Parks and Recreation Committee on Oct. 6.
If the project moves forward, the new parkland would encompass land just north of the stone wall at the Inwood Hill Park entrance on Indian Road and south of the existing boat house.
Columbia plans to build a 20,000-plus square foot athletic campus on Broadway and W. 218th Street and zoning laws require the university to offset it with public space.
“The plan is really to extend access to the waterfront to Inwood Hill Park," said Project Manager Ira Pinkus.
Viewed from just inside the entrance to Inwood Hill Park, right now there is open water, lapping against a gravel shore that leads up to a parking area. In the planning sketches Pinkus showed at the Parks and Recreation Committee meeting the water is replaced by a freshwater marsh. Tall reeds poke up from beneath the water as people stroll on the boomerang-shaped boardwalk.
Along with restoring the freshwater marsh, bodies of marshland once plentiful on the coast of Manhattan, will both attract birds to the area, and filter runoff water from the surrounding land.
"It's a valuable natural resource that has disappeared from New York," he said.
Discussion was limited to the parkland by committee chair Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, leaving questions about the athletic complex unanswered. Instead she referred that discussion to the Land Use Committee, and suggested a joint committee meeting to get a clearer picture of the entire project.
Daniel Held, who works at Bakers Field for Columbia University facilities department, said in an e-mail that the details for the athletic complex haven't been discussed because the plans are in the very initial phase.
"It is so early that it would be impossible to talk about because there is no other information; however, we know that one of the things we want to do is to focus on creating something that will connect the waterfront property at Baker Field with Inwood Hill Park so the community might have greater access," Held said.
If the plan moves forward the project would be completed in two years.
The Manhattan Times is the bilingual newspaper of Washington Heights and Inwood.