Pols salute new section of waterfront

Mayor Michael Bloomberg (at podium) was joined by State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (right), State Sen. Daniel Squadron and City Councilmember Margaret Chin (left) last Thursday to officially open the newest portion of East River Park. Downtown Express photo by Aline Reynolds

BY ALINE REYNOLDS  |  It was a picture-perfect day last Thurs., July 14 for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s visit to the new portion of East River Park, which opened between Maiden Lane and Wall Street the first week of July.

Upon arriving at the park, Bloomberg joined NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senator Daniel Squadron for a quick tour of the park’s 4,300-square-foot dog run. The officials got to pet some pups and talk to dog-owners about their opinions of the new facility, which has a doghouse, a sandbox and other pet-friendly features.

“I did not get bit once, just for the record,” the Mayor told community members and the media. “While I’m not a dog, my personal observation was that the dogs in there seemed to be enjoying it.”

The renovations, which also include modernized lounges, bar stools and a lookout area at the water’s edge, is part of the city’s East River Waterfront Esplanade and Piers project, a $166 million dollar overhaul to the approximately two miles of waterfront parkland stretching from the Lower East Side to the southern tip of Manhattan.

“Building the East River Waterfront Park and Piers is just the latest step in our efforts to reclaim New York’s beautiful waterfront,” said Bloomberg. “The section we’re opening today features some very unique elements that will give you a glimpse of how the entire park will transform the experiences [for those who] live in, work in and visit this historic area of our city.”

The new portion of the park forms part of a future “central” park of the city, according to Squadron, who envisions an esplanade and bikeway that connects the east and west sides of Manhattan.

“Hopefully it’s another step for all of us recommitting to the broader, bigger vision of fully reaching the potential of the ‘Harbor Park’ — whether it’s on the water, on the land, whether it’s the linkage, or each little community and dog run and amenity that people enjoy,” said Squadron.

The city has an obligation to “return the river” to Downtown residents and workers who have been denied proper waterfront access for years, according to Silver.

“For too long, my neighbors on the East Side of Lower Manhattan have not been able to enjoy the kind of open space, the kind of access to the waterfront that others in my community have been privileged to experience.” said Silver. “That’s why we worked so hard… to open up our East Side waterfront and to vastly expand the recreational opportunities to our neighbors on the Lower East Side, in Chinatown and in the Financial District.”

District One Councilmember Margaret Chin said she looks forward to taking moonlight strolls with fellow Lower Manhattan residents in the new section of the waterfront.

“The water is our natural resource… it’s such an amenity for people who live down here,” said Chin. “On behalf of the City Council, we’re so proud to be part of this celebration.”

Pier 15, the next phase of the project, is set to open in late fall 2011, while waterfront pavilions at Maiden Lane and John Street will be completed by summer 2012. The esplanade from Wall Street to Broad Street will open in fall 2012.