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NYC plans development of East River waterfront

Karen Matthews, Associated Press

A man walks on the East River beach under the Brooklyn bridge, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 in New York. New York City plans to spend $7 million to transform a little-noticed, trash-strewn beach beneath the Brooklyn Bridge into a recreational destination.The plan would open up public access to the sand and create a new kayak and canoe launch along the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK (AP) -- New York City officials announced a $7 million plan Thursday to turn a trash-strewn strip of sand on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge into a beach with a kayak launch, concessions stands and terraced seating for enjoying the view.

The so-called Brooklyn Bridge Beach may also include wading or swimming pools that use filtered water, because the East River itself is not clean enough to swim in.

"It's going to be a beautiful, beautiful part of the city," said Borough President Scott Stringer, who joined City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other elected officials to outline plans for the new waterfront attraction. "This is an amazing opportunity to do great things in this city."

The site itself, now littered with washed-up debris and broken bottles, served as a backdrop to the news conference under the bridge.

The plan would involve adding enough sand to create 11,000 square feet of beach area at low tide.

Officials said that despite the destruction visited on waterfront neighborhoods by Superstorm Sandy last October, New York City must not turn its back on the water.

"Our rivers are part of what set us on the path to being the greatest city in the world," said Quinn, who is running for mayor. "We're now reclaiming those."

Quinn said the added sand, along with newly introduced salt marsh plants, will not only provide recreational opportunities but will help protect Manhattan from future storms.

"We're a river city, and Mother Nature can be tough," Quinn said "So we're going to use our open space as effectively as we can, not just for recreation but also for protection."

The new beach is part of a larger plan to open up Manhattan's East River waterfront from the South Street Seaport to midtown.

That plan, called East River Blueway, is modeled on the Hudson River Park that has been developed in stages on Manhattan's West Side. The recently opened Brooklyn Bridge Park on the Brooklyn side of the famous span is also a precedent.

"From the new Brooklyn Bridge Park to running, biking or even trapezing on the Hudson River, we have a lot to be jealous of around here," City Council member Daniel Garodnick said.

Another boat launch is planned for Stuyvesant Cove, on the East River around 20th Street in Garodnick's district.

Stringer and Quinn secured the $7 million for the new beach, but developing the entire stretch of East Side riverfront would take additional state and federal funds.

The beach project is expected to take about three years to complete.