The Sixth Borough is a term increasingly used to describe NYC's waterways, the water part of the waterfront, what PortSide sometimes calls the BLUEspace.

A major goal of PortSide NewYork's goal is to inspire greater and better use of that Sixth Borough.

PortSide's BLUEspace programming is an effort, via advocacy and example, to redirect the course of NYC’s waterfront revitalization that began in the 1980s. This is how we fulfill our mission to be "a living lab for better urban waterways."

Starting in the 1980s, the wave of revitalization pushed by NYC government stressed creating view corridors to the water and access to the water’s edge.  It stressed getting people TO THE WATER from the land and did not  focus on what to do with, on and about the water once you get there. It did not understand that people can come FROM THE WATER to the land. What this meant is that boats were not really in the picture.  Advocates of boats of all types, from kayaks to cruise ships, from tugboats to tall ships, struggled for years to find dock space in NYC - a struggle that is not over, as PortSide's search for a home from 2005-2015 attests.

New York City's finally recognized the need to focus on the waterways when the department of City Planning created, with a year of community input during 2010, the comprehensive waterfront plan called  Vision 2020. Vision 2020 refers to the waterways as the Sixth Borough.

PortSide NewYork Vision for the Sixth Borough

PortSide believes our waterways should be more than just something to look at: that the water is a resource that can be used for transportation,  recreation, education and cultural inspiration, and workforce development.  

Essential to PortSide's BlueSpace advocacy is advocating for boats, of all types, from industrial sector workboats to kayaks, that have too hard a time getting operating space in NYC.  As PortSide consultant Amy Bucciferro puts it, “if it floats” we care about it.  Key to our vision is showing how to combine the working waterfront and public access, and how to use maritime activity to foster community development.

The seam between water and land should be a porous membrane with people and things coming and going across it. Not only would that make the most useful waterfront, it would also make the most interesting and fun one.
— Carolina Salguero, Founder & Director, PortSide NewYork

PortSide also supports waterfront environmentalism. Many trailblazing organizations have established that we need cleaner water and better estuarial management.  We seek to partner  with such organizations to offer waterfront ecology programs.

There is much work to do.  One result of prior NYC policy is that NYC built and/or designated some piers “for views” where boats are now unwanted. PortSide cannot bring the MARY A. WHALEN to some piers, we are told, because “boats block the view.” We think ships add to the view and that many communities would like to have a ship visit, that brings school enrichment programs, summer camp experiences, evening cultural events, a floating museum, and some fun!