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


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

PortSide NewYork was founded to inspire greater and better use of that Sixth Borough BLUEspace.

PortSide believes our waterways should be bustling with life: boat life, human life, marine life. PortSide brings the community ashore and the community afloat closer together for the benefit of both.

We support boats, of all types, from industrial sector workboats to recreational boats, all of which have a hard time getting operating space in NYC.  

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.

We believe the water is more than something to admire from a bench -- as was the the design ethos of late 20th century waterfront parks.  

The water is a resource that can be used for transportation, recreation, education and cultural inspiration, and workforce development such as our preservation internships with a CTE high school and using our ship as a training site for the painters union District Council 9. 

We believe this City needs a new model for co-existence and synergy of all these uses. PortSide programs show the way. We are a living lab for better urban waterways.

PortSide is a think-tank and a do-tank

We advocate, and we do.

Our goal is to create a waterfront center, with B-to-B services for workboats, a landing for historic, charter and excursion vessels, and water-related programs and services in building space alongside the pier.  Such a place will allow us to finally and fully demonstrate our vision.

In the meantime, our WaterStories programs have helped push a new direction for NYC’s waterfront revitalization that began in the 1980s. 

That wave of revitalization 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.

This meant 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.

2010 was a pivotal year.  We water and boat focused advocates were heard. That year, New York City recognized the need to focus on the waterways; and City Planning created, with a year of community input, the comprehensive waterfront plan called Vision 2020. PortSide contributed a lot of input in meetings and testimony. 

Vision 2020 ushered in a new era of water-focused planning and refers to the waterways as the Sixth Borough.  

The future of the Sixth Borough

We believe that Superstorm Sandy should not drown the great ideas of Vision 2020.  

Sandy hit October 29, 2012, less than two years after Vision 2020 was rolled out.

The post-Sandy resiliency dialogue focuses on closing off the water, on building sea wallsl; but to activate and use the waterways as per Vision 2020, we need apertures, not solid walls. Read and hear how our President Carolina Salguero articulated that in at a presentation at AIANY.

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, visiting tourists, evening cultural events, a floating museum, and some fun!

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.