Local elected officials hosted a celebratory meeting on Jan. 31 after Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to allocate $284 million to the NYC Parks Department in order to make much needed repairs to the East River Esplanade.
As first reported by amNewYork Metro last week, de Blasio designated $284 million to the restoration of both the East River Esplanade and Pier 107, which has fallen into disrepair in recent years. Sections of the esplanade have broken off into the East River while some safety railings sit on nothing but empty air causing growing safety concerns.
Community members, elected officials, and the NYC Parks Department have been striving to see fixes implemented for a matter of years now and are overwhelmed with excitement that those promised improvements are now within reach.
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney and City Council Member Ben Kallos — both co-chairs of the East River Esplanade Task Force—and other officials are applauding the Mayor and NYC Parks department for a new reconstruction commitment following consistent advocation for the betterment of the Uptown to East Harlem green space.
On Sunday morning, Rep. Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly member Robert Rodriguez, Kallos, members of Community Board 8, Community Board 11, and Friends of the East River Esplanade gathered on 96th Street and the FDR Drive to formally celebrate the renovation commitment. Several members of the community also joined in the conference to share their excitement of the upcoming repairs.
“With New Yorkers doing our part, wearing masks and social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID, open spaces and parks in this area is so much more important than ever. The East River Esplanade offers a place to play for all the children in our district: a place to run, bike, and just enjoy the outdoors,” Maloney said.
In August, Maloney and other elected officials pushed to have a sinkhole along the East 76th Street FDR Drive walkway rectified. These sinkholes and other structural issues are popping up along the East River Esplanade, and with the newly allocated funds, many are now hopeful to once again be able to access the area.
Maloney shared that she is also reaching out for a grant from the United States Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a study of the whole East Side to pinpoint problematic areas that need repairs.
“Too often we are playing whack a mole, one comes up and then a block or two a way you get another sinkhole and we really have to look at it in a comprehensive way,” Maloney said.
amNewYork Metro was granted access to Pier 107 on Jan. 28th by the NYC Park Department where it is hoped the rusted and deteriorating structure will once again host the public after the project is completed. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez have spent several years attempting to have the Esplanade and Pier 107 fixed. Both officials were overjoyed to see the Mayor allocate such a large investment in the beautification.
“As you see, there is a little sign that says, the Esplanade is closed above 114th street, and 107th the entire pier is closed because it is not safe. We put out a report in 2015 called the “Tale of Two Rivers,” and said there are parks coming up across the borough of Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge, Green Point, but when you come up North of 96th Street you literally cannot make it to 125th Street because it is closed off. We had a vision and a dream,” Rodriguez said, “This can be an amazing transformative place for the residents of East Harlem and the residents of our entire city, but help is needed.”
The community-led project has been a beacon of hope for those residing in the area, wishing they can find respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city within the scenic, riverside space provided by the pier and its surrounding walkways.
“Our esplanade is more important than ever during this pandemic,” said Kallos.
Kallos broke down the dispersal of funds, stating that $187 million would be spent on fixing 94th Street up to 107th Street on top of $1 million that was already allocated for irrigating the plants. Additionally, $69 million will be spent on repairs from 118th Street to 124th Street, and $28 million for Pier 107.
All of this does not include funds that each of the elected officials have helped raise throughout the years to try and salvage the esplanade.
“At this point we are three quarters of a billion, and some of the money is moving. We were able to get a repair done on 76th Street in less than six months during a pandemic, but now the challenge is to say to the Mayor, ‘Thank you for the money, start the work now,'” Kallos said.
Now the funds have be allocated, residents are keeping their eyes peeled, waiting for the announcement of when they can expect construction to begin.