Pier work begins on East River waterfront


A new waterfront park that is meant to do for the East Side what Hudson River Park did for the West Side broke ground at a ceremony Tuesday morning.

With swiveling cranes in the background, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the timing could not be better to start construction of the East River Waterfront, a project he promised to build four years ago. The $150 million park, funded mostly by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., will create about 400 construction jobs during the recession, Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg stood alongside the governor, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Borough President Scott Stringer and State Sen. Daniel Squadron to describe the first phase of the project, which will stretch 2 miles from the Battery Maritime Building up to Pier 35, connecting the West Side greenway to East River Park. That work is slated to finish in 2011.

The award-winning design by SHoP Architects includes retail and community-use pavilions under the elevated F.D.R. Dr.; amphitheater steps descending toward the water; wider paths for cyclists and pedestrians; and bar-stool seating along a rebuilt esplanade.

The East River Waterfront will be “as innovative and exciting as the High Line,” City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden said.

A second phase, which does not yet have funding or a timeline, would convert Pier 42 to public use with an urban beach and would create a plaza in front of the Battery Maritime Building.

At the groundbreaking, the mayor highlighted plans for a new double-decker Pier 15, whose concrete piles are already rising from the East River. The pier will include a marine education center, concessions and space to dock boats on the lower level, and an open lawn and plantings on the upper level.

The city also unveiled new plans for Pier 35, at Rutgers Slip, which will become an “eco pier” featuring flora and fauna native to the East River shoreline.

The mayor first mentioned the possibility of improving the East River waterfront in 2002. Part of the reason the East River Waterfront project it took so long to get off the ground was because of the many permits required, Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber said. The project also underwent an extensive public review, with more than 70 community meetings.

Borough President Stringer thanked Bloomberg for consulting Community Boards 1 and 3 so extensively.

“You’ve done something I didn’t think was possible,” Stringer said to the mayor. “I think you’ve tired them out.”

— Julie Shapiro