Upper East Siders Propose Plans to Address Open Space Concerns

By Victoria Bekiempis on September 30, 2013 10:18am 

 Upper East Side leaders have lamented a lack of open space in the neighborhood, saying that Central Park (pictured above) does not suit the entire community's needs.
Upper East Side leaders have lamented a lack of open space in the neighborhood, saying that Central Park (pictured above) does not suit the entire community's needs.
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DNAinfo/Maya Shwayder

UPPER EAST SIDE — If you want to build up, pay up.

That's what one Upper East Sider suggested at a recent Community Board 8 Parks Committee meeting, arguing that institutions with large-scale development plans — such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Rockefeller University — should pay to develop open space around the neighborhood.

"We have to stop doing welfare [for the corporations]," said CB8 member Marco Tamayo, who suggested the idea, but did not offer specifics as to how such a funding scheme would work. "This is the time that we have to change. If we don't work together, we're never going to be successful."

Tamayo's comments came amid the committee's continued discussion of open space. Community leaders have long maintained that the UES lacks open space, saying that Central Park does not serve the needs of the entire community — a claim echoed by experts in the field.

Many UES residents feel the lack of open space has been heightened by the rash of hospitals and educational institutions building higher, denser buildings in the predominantly residential neighborhood. Many UES residents believe these institutions should provide open space to offset their density.

The Parks Committee, having identified and outlined its concerns, is now tailoring public discussion to  develop a "wish list" of solutions.

UES retiree Bob Menna called for rehabbing the East River Esplanade so that it becomes a cultural destination.

"I think that the East River Esplanade should attract as many people as possible," he said, but "it has to be an area where people want to go because something is happening."

Like many present, CB8 Member Lorraine Johnson recommended kick-starting an Esplanade revamp by using the planned— and much-maligned — East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station platform as a recreational pier rather than a sanitation hub.

"That could be such a nice place for sitting," she said. "It's a big place."

The waste project remained a sore point for many at the meeting who said it would prevent a continuous waterfront walkway on the UES. While the station became a flashpoint in the 2013 Democratic primary, there's no sign the city is reconsidering its plans to build it.

"To me, the marine transfer station is the elephant in the room," CB8 Member Michele Birnbaum said. "I don't know where this continuum is going to happen."

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