Act: Inspiration

Rondout Riverport 2040: Part 2

January 29, 2021

Ed. note: You can read Part 1 of this post on here.

A Comprehensive Plan for a Working Waterfront and the Transportation of Goods and People in a Carbon Constrained Future

Rondout Riverport will not stand alone, but will be integrated into the greater Hudson Valley Bioregion, along with the wider Northeast and U.S. transportation and distribution system, with which it will engage collectively and creatively to unleash an extraordinary historic transition to a future beyond fossil fuels [37]; a future that is vibrant, abundant, resilient, and ultimately preferable, more equitable, and more economically viable than the current model.

Rondout Riverport 2040 will serve as an empowering example to our bioregion and our country – demonstrating the viability of ethical livelihoods and teaching beneficial sustainable technologies that do minimal socio-environmental harm; methodologies that foster self-reliance and promote Slow Tech hands-on work practices.

Caulking tools

Traditional Tools for Caulking Seams: Credit: By Pjbflynn at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0,

The result: entrepreneurs, professionals, technicians, craftspeople, academics, and students from across our bioregion, and across the United States, will be drawn to our state-of-the-art waterfront – gathering here to learn from each other. Our waterfront will be like no other in our region, or maybe in the nation: Becoming a living laboratory, cultivating not only practical and sustainable energy, commerce, and transportation solutions, but generating a flow of fresh, pathfinding ideas.

To bring these advanced infrastructure changes about – working with partners throughout the region – we will need to establish: a new binding agreement with the region’s farmers and farm advocacy organizations in our “foodshed” that offers subsidized support of infrastructure including, but not limited to:

  • Full employment in year-round growing season zero carbon greenhouses [38].
  • First and last mile transportation of agricultural products to processors and the waterfront (using existing and new rail-trails as bike/trike corridors);
  • Solar powered cold storage at critical locations.
  • Year-round indoor farm markets.
  • An inter-port agreement with small and mid-sized ports along the Hudson River, the Erie and Champlain Canals, and New York Harbor. This agreement would include the sharing of information on resilience and “future proofing” of all waterfronts.
  • Establish a Sustainable Working Waterfront Toolkit – making available the historical and current uses and economics of New York’s waterfronts as a resource. The toolkit must include legal, policy, and financing tools that river ports and waterfront communities can tap into so as to preserve and enhance local and regional port facilities.
  • Small ship access to flood proofed regional produce and fish markets [39].
  • The Hunts Point Market and Fish Market must be made accessible to small ships, delivering farm goods from upstate and returning with seafood from the Market.
  • A new agreement with transport and longshore unions that allows ships to load and unload with their own equipment. Local industry will need to work in close conjunction with the unions to hire and train more people for post carbon longshore work.
  • A partnership with the region’s Maritime Academies, the Hudson River Maritime Museum’s Wooden Boat School [40], and a new maritime trades high school based on the New York Harbor School [41] to train mariners, and to teach the logistics careers required to serve the new post carbon working waterfront; with the ultimate goal being the creation of a Training Center [36] in the mid-Hudson Valley where professional practitioners and apprentices can participate in practical workshops to relearn maritime and other heritage skills and old/new technology to serve present and future needs;
  • An endowment for the preservation and utilization of traditional maritime skills and tools, the establishment of a traditional knowledge database/Wiki; library; and pre/post carbon tool, technology, and machinery collection. This innovative interactive educational resource serves to preserve, restore, and promote the re-use of traditional skills, integrating those skills and methods with modern know-how and appropriate post carbon technologies.
  • Create maritime mixed-use zones where public parks, walkways and bikeways are built in flood zones and are adjacent to and part of the working waterfront – acting as a source of recreation and as a vital part of flood control.
  • Establish a strong working relationship with NOAA’s National Sea Grant Program for working waterfronts [42].
  • Advocate for a reduced, less intrusive regulatory role for the US Army Corps of Engineers. Instead, encourage Corps funding be channelled into partnerships with other agencies, local non-profit organizations, and an engaged public to develop, and redevelop climate change-resistant and resilient Hudson River ports, and to create living shorelines, restored wetlands, and estuarine habitats resulting from the removal of bulkheads and restoration of intertidal habitats [43].

Through this diversity and combined effect of uses, Rondout Riverport’s working waterfront will also:

  • Create jobs in sailing, logistics, shipbuilding, harbor maintenance, craft, food production and more.
  • Revitalize the waterfront community via economic development combined with better public access and recreation.
  • Improve regional food production and distribution, linking producers to markets in the Hudson Valley and beyond.
  • Design and build a maritime commerce micro-hub for aggregation, warehousing, co- packing, and marketing.

Rondout Riverport will be the homeport for future-proof sailing, alternative fuel, and solar electric ships. It will provide training in maritime skills, shipbuilding, and longshore trades, while also educating crews in “earth care, people care, and fair share” principles [44]. These future-proof[1] ships and their locally trained crews will carry people, goods, and knowledge to and from towns along the Hudson and on the region’s canals.

As Rondout Riverport becomes the working waterfront of tomorrow, the constraints, and advantages of smaller and (s)lower tech modes of transport must be considered in every aspect of the port’s design [45]. Historic and modern technologies must meld seamlessly to offer approaches that are more self-sufficient and sustainable. Just one example: ships of all sorts, meeting a variety of needs, will have to be built (and rebuilt) locally, from locally sourced or recycled materials, and be crewed by locally trained seafarers.  These new vessels will likely be different than the ones we build today; smaller, more versatile, adaptable, energy-smart, and affordable.

As fossil fuels become more expensive or less available, replaced by alternative sources, and are restricted by climate change policy – port infrastructure will need to be part of a carbon neutral trading network for “short sea shipping [46]” that links us to the region and the world, the Hudson Valley, the New York/New Jersey Harbor, coastal waterways, and transfer points for goods from overseas.

Moreover, the Rondout Riverport will be well positioned to become a laboratory for carrying cargo under sail [47] as public agencies [48], and private companies [49] accelerate their investigations of the potential economic and environmental benefits of transferring more cargo from roadways to waterways.


Life at the water’s edge is rapidly changing. The impacts of new technology, patterns of urban development, and globalization are redefining global logistics, and while some waterfront cities will thrive as ports and grow under these new conditions, others will need to evolve to survive and succeed….

The Rondout Creek today, lapping at the shores of Kingston, and of the Sleightsburg and Connelly hamlets in the town of Esopus, is in the flux of significant change. The waterfront as it is, represents an amalgam of positives and negatives. At its best, it boasts commercial shipyards, marinas, marine services businesses; institutions including the Hudson River Maritime Museum (and its Wooden Boat School, and Shipyard [32]); along with wetlands, open space, promenades, magnificent scenery [50] and recreational possibilities. But at its worst, it is marred by brownfields [51], combined sewer overflows [52], and a variety of non-water dependent [53] uses that make poor use of water accessibility, marine transportation, and port possibilities.

Most unfortunate of all: existing development plans lack a sweeping vision and often fail to take a future into account dominated by climate impacts, including severe storm surges, along with a steady sea and river level rise that will soon inundate portions of the currently existing Rondout and Hudson shoreline [54]. Plans that fail to take climate change into account will drown in insolvency.

Over the past few years, a variety of plans and proposals have been put forward, each with particularly good elements, but also with gaps and flaws:

  • The City of Kingston and town Esopus are working with stakeholders and partners on The Rondout Waterfront to improve the resiliency and sustainability of the shoreline, implement an economic development strategy, and cultivate better access to the river via waterfront parks and open space for people on foot, on bicycle, and launching boats.
  • Kingston’s Weaving the Waterfront [55] planning process has many elements including: the Waterfront Resiliency Project, Rondout Riverport Shoreline Stabilization and Public Access Project [56], Kingston Point Park Improvements Project [57], Kingston Point Climate Adaptive Design [58], Kingston Point Rail Trail Phase 2 [59] and trail and public access improvements.
  • The Town of Esopus, is also working on a comprehensive plan that contains waterfront [60] goals for the Wallkill, Hudson, and Rondout Creek Waterfront access and usage. These plans include development policies to restore, revitalize, and redevelop deteriorated and underutilized waterfront areas for commercial, industrial, cultural, recreational, and other uses.
  • Significant work has also been done to address storms and sea level rise: Preparing Hudson River Waterfronts for an Era of Rapid Sea Level Rise [61], The City of Kingston Grant-Funded Waterfront Projects [62], Scenic Hudson’s report on Sea Level Rise [63], and Hudson River Sea Level Rise City of Kingston [63]. New York is also starting to pay attention to the climate issue through The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) [64].

However, importantly, very few if any of these proposals are in the implementation phase. And little of the available climate and sea level change studies and data are included in the port and waterfront redevelopment plans as presently formulated.

Rondout Riverport 2040 is unique in that it takes likely forecasts of the near future fully into account; it is a proposal that offers a hard, sober look at the realities of our climate change, alternative energy, and global supply chain future.

But for this plan to be realized, stakeholders, partners, and existing maritime institutions will need to buy-in now and participate actively in the planning and implementation process. Those institutions include, but are not limited to the Center for Post Carbon Logistics [4], the Schooner Apollonia [2], the Hudson River Maritime Museum’s solar electric passenger vessel Solaris, [1] the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater [65], Sustainable Hudson Valley’s Regional Hudson Valley Climate Action Plan [66], The Riverport Coalition [67], Riverkeeper [68], and the Beacon Sloop Club’s Woody Guthrie [69]. This diverse partnership must also be inclusive of public and private landowners, as well as land conservation organizations, including but not limited to the Kingston Land Trust [70], Scenic Hudson, and the hundreds of Hudson Valley organizations and individuals working for a more resilient and sustainable future.

4.1          Threat Assessment, a first step.

The Rondout communities must start by objectively assessing near future threats and evaluating our greatest points of weakness – assessing local infrastructure, and economic, political, social, and environmental structures. Rondout Riverport communities will especially need to fortify against the economic and environmental storms to come by doing work to enrich our towns and neighborhoods today, reducing risk and enhancing resilience for the future, by:

Threat Assessment

  • Implementing community flood-proofing [71] and simultaneously introducing drought-resistant landscaping [72], in preparation for extreme weather patterns.
  • institutionalizing green building practices [73];
  • zoning against development in climate disaster-prone floodplains [74];
  • installing redundant communication and storm-proof energy systems [75];
  • establishing systems for community-wide food security [76];
  • creating “resiliency hubs,” [77] equipped to deal with sudden health, environmental, or weather / climate disasters, and develop strategies for proactive risk minimization and management.
  • using the tools of community “placemaking” [78]  to include the broadest possible participation in planning for, and developing, a working and recreational Rondout Waterfront and Port that will be operational and adaptable for the first half of the 21stcentury and beyond;
  • develop an education and training center [36] for rapid proliferation of all these practices and trades in and beyond the Rondout Riverport.

Rondout Riverport 2040 will engender the Hudson Valley’s can-do spirit, harness our region’s inventiveness and our love of innovation, allowing our region and its people to not merely survive in the Post Carbon era, but thrive. And why not? After all, our region gave the world the steamboat, the telegraph, the submarine, FM radio, the first interactive software systems vital to today’s computers, and even potato chips. We seem born to invent the future!

Rondout Riverport 2040, by cooperating fully with all partners, will incorporate the best elements of existing planning documents; undertake a thorough land use, flood plain, and sea level rise analysis; examine current trends in shipping, energy, food security and port management; assess the best climate change and economic forecasts; and create an adaptive re-use Waterfront plan that incorporates the best of 19th, 20th, and 21st century technologies.

But this process will do far more than construct a vision. It must ensure that this vision is aligned with community values and sensibilities. To achieve this goal, we will use a placemaking approach as the structure for addressing critical questions about how best to mobilize the many assets of the Rondout Riverport in a coordinated fashion to meet community needs and attract diverse resources.

Placemaking is a holistic approach for considering the possibilities inherent in a locality by identifying a unifying purpose or theme – the essence of the place – and then identifying multiple strategies, at multiple scales, that relate to this theme, providing direction for achieving unified objectives and goals.

The foundation of placemaking is a focus on the many natural benefits of public space to achieve the most comprehensive multiple uses, aesthetic benefits, connectivity, and social interaction. This process will generate key insights into how state, municipal, and county government agencies can best coordinate implementation efforts and find the resources to address problems and opportunities.

The placemaking approach will catalyze the integration of the many layers of conceptual planning already underway by various entities, aiding in the development of collaborative strategies for redeveloping the Port so that it serves multiple river uses and users.

The partners will work with, and gain consensus from, other Hudson Valley organizations to begin realizing the Rondout Riverport 2040 vision. A network of groups, including the Lifeboats HV, Sustainable Hudson Valley Senior Fellows [79], Good Work Institute Fellows Network [80], C4PCL’s advisory committee [81], plus staff and contractors, will provide intensive inputs and garner resources to translate the partners’ vision into robust planning and implementation during 2021.

It is now past time to implement the many excellent ideas generated by our communities and their planners. It is time to bring the planning process forward into those communities. The path to a bright, sustainable future starts with research and engagement, and placemaking in Kingston and Esopus and on the Rondout Waterfront.

The source of our inspiration and empowerment will be our region’s shorefront and its waters, its hands, and minds. Here the best and brightest, urban and rural, “Slow” technologists, craftspeople, educators, planners, artists, schoolchildren, and seniors, can come together to remake our post-modern world. Here we will find new, efficient, green ways to produce energy; revolutionize agriculture to assure food security; reinvent transportation on land and water to move goods up and down our Hudson and to prosper in the challenging times ahead. Here we’ll help birth a new, inclusive regional economy that rewards all citizens, while celebrating democracy, cooperation, and public service.

Picture a Rondout Port in which every day, diverse participants – Transition and Permaculture practitioners, boat and ship builders, coopers, riggers, longshore workers, managers, carpenters, commercial fishermen, millwrights, engineers, potters, community development financial institutions, farmers, weavers, woodworkers, planners, architects, writers, historians, archivists, computer and IT experts, and people from wildly diverse vocations – will all merge and meld their talents to realize the vision of Rondout Riverport 2040.

In implementing the Rondout Riverport vision, we will move via hands-on experiences beyond spin and abstract buzzwords – past “environmental”, or “sustainable”, or “eco” this or that. Here, our work will focus on a single place and on a Just Transition away from fossil fuels. The times ahead will give new meaning to the word deckhand, as all join to create the naturally viable means for living and being in community in the 21st Century – as we prosper economically, emotionally, and spiritually, beyond the realm of coal and oil.

The next step will be one of the most critical: to gather all our research and data, analyze it, and commit to honestly confronting challenges, while also boldly embracing opportunities and possibilities. We must move forward quickly and vigorously; climate change and economic change are moving ahead swiftly. We must inspire individuals, communities, local leaders, and City, County, and State officials to commit to the creation of a thriving, innovative Rondout Riverport and Working Waterfront, as a gateway to a vast system of sustainable waterways that together will enable a Post Carbon Future full of hope and opportunity.


  1. ‘Transition US’ n.d.
  2. Doyon, Marie, ‘A Geothermal Greenhouse Grow Microgreens All Year’ Upstate House, 2017
  3. ‘Hunt’s Point Lifelines’ Rebuild by Design, n.d.
  4. ‘Wooden Boat School’ n.d.
  5. ‘New York Harbor School’ n.d.
  6. ‘The economic contribution of working waterfronts’ NOAA n.d.
  7. ‘Benefits of Bulkhead Removal’ Northwest Straits Foundation n.d.
  8. ‘Permaculture Design Principles’ Permaculture Principals n.d.
  9. Willner, Andrew, ‘Transition, Permaculture, and Slow Technology’ Center for Post Carbon Logistics 20 Oct 2019
  10. US Department of Transportation, ‘Development of short sea shipping’ 15 Feb 2007
  11. Melotti, Rob, ‘Trading Under Sail’ Practical Boat Owner n.d.
  12. US Department of Transport ‘America’s Marine Highway’ n.d.
  13. ‘Neoline’ n.d.
  14. Brownski ‘Rondout Creek: Paddle back in time’ NY Ski Blog 9 July 2018
  15. Finkle, Steven, ‘Waterfront Brownfield Opportunity Area’ April 2011
  16. ‘Combined Sewer Overflow Information’ n.d.
  17. New York Department of State ‘Coastal Policies’ 2017
  18. Kirby, Paul, ‘Developer proposes a 4-acre, multiuse complex at Rondout waterfront’ Daily Freeman–acre-multiuse-complex-at-rondout-waterfront/article_786d759c-e9c5-11e8-84eb-3372fc2b0561.html 17 Nov 2017
  19. ‘Weaving the Waterfront’ n.d.
  20. ‘Weaving the Waterfront Kingston’ n.d.
  21. ‘Kingston Point Park Improvements’ n.d.
  22. ‘Kingston Point Climate Adaptive Design’ n.d.
  23. ‘Kingston Point Rail Trail Phase 2’ n.d.
  24. Kemble, William J., ‘Town of Esopus ready to move ahead with changes to waterfront plan.’ Daily Freeman 15 June 2020
  25. Swanzey, Gregg, and Tabak, Nava ‘Preparing Hudson River waterfronts for an era of rapid sea level rise’ 2013
  26. ‘City of Kingston Grant-Funded Waterfront Projects’ April 2018
  27. ‘Sea Level Rise’ n.d.
  28. ‘Climate Act’ n.d.
  29. ‘The Sloop’ n.d.
  30. ‘Regional Climate Action Planning’ Sustainable Hudson Valley n.d.
  31. ‘Waterfront Coalition unites Kingston Stakeholders’ Mid Hudson News 13 April 2018
  32. ‘Riverkeeper’ n.d.
  33. ‘The woody Guthrie Sloop’ n.d.
  34. ‘Kingston Land Trust’ n.d.
  35. ‘Floodproof your community’ n.d.
  36. ‘CityLab’ Bloomburg n.d.
  37. ‘Green Building’ n.d.
  38. ‘Floodplain Zoning’ n.d.
  39. ‘Hurricane Proof Energy Resiliency’ North American Clean Energy 3 May 2018
  40. ‘What is Community Food Security?’ Food Security n.d.
  41. 77 ‘Resilience Hubs’ Urban Sustainability Director’s Network n.d.
  42. ‘What is Placemaking?’ Project for Public Spaces n.d.
  43. ‘Senior Fellows’ Sustainable Hudson Valley n.d.
  44. ‘The Fellowship’ The Good Work Institute n.d.
  45. ‘Advisory Committee’ Center for Post Carbon Logistics n.d.

[1]  The term “future-proof” refers to the ability of something to continue to be of value into the distant future – that the item does not become obsolete.

Andrew Willner

Andrew Willner has been a leader, organizer, and advocate for the New York/New Jersey Bioregion for 25 years.  He was an early proponent of the Waterkeeper model of water and habitat protection as the founder of NY/NJ Baykeeper. Andrew is principal of the consulting firm, Sustainability Solutions, and from 2008 to 2014 was the Principal Professional Consultant for energy, transportation, and the environment to the Hugo Neu Corporation Andrew  has been a city planner, furniture designer, sculptor, boat builder, environmentalist, PermaculturistTransition advocate, story teller, blogger, and he exhibits his photographs taken while patrolling the New York/ New Jersey Harbor for 20 years on the Baykeeper skiff. He is writing a book, Fish and Ships, a photo narrative of the people, places, and environment of one of the most beautiful and vulnerable estuaries in the world. Andrew  is a sought after speaker on a wide variety of subjects including environmental advocacy, habitat restoration, sustainability, Permaculture and Transition, and is often asked to read  from his fiction and non-fiction writing.

Tags: bioregional economies, building resilient economies, sail power, sustainable transport, water transport