As Pier 107 continues its decline in East Harlem, one local elected official is asking the city why there seems to be a lack of will in giving its generally lower income bracket families modern waterfront recreation space.
The pier, according to Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, is slowly decaying into the Harlem River after 89 years as a feature in the community.
Although a capital project for an unknown future date has been slated for funding by the city Department of Parks and Recreation, Rodriguez has watched aggressive waterfront park development in the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods come first.
“What’s happened on the West Side in terms of investment – not just Hudson River Park, which is obvious, but also the West Harlem park and the whole waterfront around there – that’s also what’s happening on the east side with a similar city park ownership structure which is kind of glaring,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve seen some investment by the city stop at 96th Street and north of 125th, but the real problems that we have continue to be 96th to 125th – including the pier.”
Pier 107 has been closed off in the past due to roof structures in the recreation space on the verge of collapse.
Rodriguez was able to acquire funds to fix the pavilions, but it was not enough to stop the inexorable decline of pier which was closed off to the public again two years ago for “lack of use.”
Now there’s a fence Rodriguez said has been extended into the esplanade making any use of the waterfront difficult.
“In the meantime, I’ve made this a budget priority, got allocations from the state,” Rodriguez said. “But at this point there is no matching contribution from the city for the pier. It kind of got band-aid fixes in last year’s budget to deal with some of the gaping holes in the esplanade, but again, not enough to make any dramatic improvements and nothing for the pier.”
And when Rodriguez says there were gaping holes, he means it. Photos of the esplanade from his 2015 report, Tale of Two Rivers illustrates this in photographic detail.
The city’s Parks Department told amNewYork Metro there is a plan in the works to not only rebuild the pier, but also update the esplanade.
The price tag for total reconstruction of the pier is estimated for $26.1 million with the adjoining esplanade expected to cost the city $9.6 million.
“We have transformed piers around the city into beloved open, waterfront spaces, and we hope to one day do the same for Pier 107,” a Parks spokesperson said. “We look forward to working with our supportive local elected officials to secure the full funding needed to move this project forward.”
The $38.2 million project will focus on the East River Esplanade between East 114th and 117th streets.
Not only was the pier given a ten year lifespan five years ago, a study meant to be released on redeveloping Pier 107 has fallen behind deadline.
“It looks like environmental racism when we talk about other places that have gotten significant investment,” Rodriguez said.
Even the reconstruction of the esplanade seems to be delayed.
According to the Parks capital projects tracker, the overhaul effort of the esplanade was originally scheduled March 2020 completion, but the website shows that the design phase is only 30% complete.