East River Esplanade gets $100M boost from mayor

The funds would go toward filling the gap in the greenway between East 61st and East 53rd streets, the mayor said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is pledging $100 million to build a new bicycle and pedestrian esplanade along the East River between East 61st and East 53rd streets, he announced Tuesday.

The esplanade will shrink one of the last large gaps in the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, a 32-mile mixed-use path that loops around Manhattan. Funding will be allocated in the mayor’s executive budget to be unveiled Wednesday.

“We’re jumpstarting the completion of a Greenway linking the entire Manhattan waterfront,” said de Blasio in a statement, after unveiling the plans via Twitter Tuesday. “The Hudson River Greenway has vastly improved quality of life on the West Side, and we want families in every corner in the borough to have that same access to bike, walk and play along the water. This is the first of many big investments we’ll make as we bring the full Greenway to reality.”

Design efforts will begin this year, spearheaded by the city’s Economic Development Corporation. Construction will start in 2019 with an expected completion in 2022. Currently, riders must leave the waterfront around this section of the East Side to bike along lanes striped on city streets.

“It’s just tremendously welcome news for anyone who has experienced the inhospitable streets of the East Side as one tries to go north or south along that stretch,” said Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives.

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said the project was pivotal in the city’s ongoing efforts of “taking back” New York’s waterfront and highlighted the need to continue closing the greenway’s gaps.

“The idea of taking your bike, pushing your stroller or running around any part of Manhattan is a dream for anybody,” Glen said.

First conceived by Mayor David Dinkins in 1993, the greenway now serves more than 7,000 daily cyclists, making it the busiest bike path in the country, according to the city. Despite its popularity, cyclists share some disdain for the greenway’s inconsistent East Side section, where they must navigate a patchwork of uneven paths that vary in width.

The last remaining gaps are along Harlem’s East River shoreline, through Inwood and along the East Side from 38th and, now, to 53rd streets. The mayor’s budget also includes $5 million for a multi-agency study to be completed this year that will examine those stretches and identify funding options to close them.

Private institutions have also played a part in rehabilitating the esplanade. Rockefeller University and the Hospital for Special Surgery are both helping to patch up the waterfront as part of their expansion projects.

“A lot of progress has been made over the prior decade but we really have yet to complete the job,” Glen continued. “There are parts where you’re taking your life into your own hands, almost—it gets pretty hairy on the east side.

“We want to address those sections,” Glen said, “and also the bunch of chokepoints to improve flow.”

Vincent Barone