BY JACKSON CHEN | The city has announced a $100 million investment for the construction of a new East River esplanade from East 53rd to 61st Streets to fill a gap in the existing pathway for pedestrians and cyclists traversing the Manhattan waterfront.
On April 25, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’s looking to close the largest incomplete stretch of the Waterfront Greenway surrounding Manhattan by using millions from the city’s capital budget. The project would go far toward finally wrapping the entire island with a contiguous 32 miles of pedestrian and cyclist waterfront access.
Currently, the East River Esplanade provides disjointed waterfront access, with users having to cut over onto city streets between East 53rd and 61st Streets as they approach from either the north or the south.
“The Hudson River Greenway has vastly improved quality of life on the West Side,” de Blasio said, “And we want families in every corner in the borough to have that same access to bike, walk, and play along the water.”
The city’s Economic Development Corporation will lead the project and begin design work this year. Construction is expected to start in 2019, with the completed esplanade expected sometime in 2022. The project has already received initial approval from the US Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
The East River Esplanade has long been in need of improvements, as repeatedly pointed out by elected officials and community organizations. Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and City Councilmember Ben Kallos, co-chairs of the East River Esplanade Task Force, have persistently pressed for funding to repair the esplanade’s infrastructure.
North of 60th Street, the esplanade is currently undergoing needed renovations through public and private partnerships, with a total price to bring the portion extending north to East 125th Street into “a state of good repair” now exceeding $200 million, according to numbers from the Department of Parks and Recreation.
“The dream of an East River Greenway is getting closer with a vital connection to fill the gap between 53rd and 61st Streets,” Kallos said about the mayor’s investment. “I will finally be able to run the full length of my district from Midtown East to East Harlem.”
In addition to the $100 million earmarked for the esplanade connection, the mayor is also allocating $5 million for a multi-agency study to be completed this year that looks at how to bridge smaller remaining gaps in the borough’s waterfront access.
Jennifer Ratner, the founder and board chair of Friends of the East River Esplanade, said her group is thrilled about the connection given its long advocacy for enhancing and expanding Manhattan’s Waterfront Greenway.
She added, however, that the sections of the esplanade on the Upper East Side continue to need attention, with parks department reports showing numerous heavily deteriorated piers, chronic sinkholes around East 90th Street, and a dire need for repairs along the esplanade’s seawall.
While voicing excitement at the mayor’s commitment, she said her group will remain vigilant that the repairs promised by the parks department for the stretch of the esplanade between East 60th and 125th Streets are carried out.