Floating Paths and Amphitheater Coming to East River Esplanade, City Says

By Heather Holland on November 7, 2013 2:44pm 

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 The NYCEDC released renderings of a new esplanade proposed for the East River waterfront.
East River Esplanade
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MIDTOWN EAST — A new waterfront park planned for the East Side will feature floating paths, canopies and amphitheater seating, and it will be equipped with buffers to protect against storms and noise from the FDR Drive, officials announced this week.

The city unveiled renderings Wednesday of the new East River esplanade, which will eventually run about a mile from 38th Street to 60th Street and offer a bike lane, a pedestrian path, planters and seating — all floating 30 feet away from the FDR and 2 feet above the 100-year flood line.

“You will be floating on the water, which is quite a unique experience,” said Cali Gorewitz, vice president of development at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. “We [also] wanted to build it to withstand the East River conditions. It’s a rough water body.”

The 5-acre greenway, which is scheduled to be built over the next 12 years, will include three parts: one part running between 53rd and 60th streets, which will be dedicated to environmental education; another between 41st and 53rd streets, equipped to accommodate larger gatherings; and the waterside pier between 38th and 41st streets, which will focus on activity and water access, according to Alma Du Solier, a consultant for the EDC working for a firm called Aecom.

“We wanted to find a way of inserting special moments along the way,” Solier said. “Each node has its own personality.”

The esplanade will also feature protection against rising sea levels and major storms like Hurricane Sandy. The base of the path will be constructed 2 feet above the 100-year flood line, and the structure itself will be designed to withstand waves, wind and other storm conditions, Gorewitz said.

The design of the 45-foot-wide waterside pier, formerly the Con Edison pier, is still in the early stages, but the pier is expected to include plenty of seating and fitness equipment, Solier said.

In 2011, Con Ed paid the city $13 million to rehabilitate the pier, and the city allotted additional funds for the project. The city has already begun seeking a contractor for the project and will begin reconstructing the dilapidated pier within the next few months, Gorewitz said.

The waterside pier is expected to open to the public by 2015.

“We’re on great track to begin construction in the coming months,” Gorewitz said.

The funding for the rest of the esplanade is contingent on whether the U.N. Development Corporation decides to buy the property located on a piece of Robert Moses Park from the city, and to build a 36-story campus building there.

As a part of a deal between the city and the U.N. Development Corporation, which was formally hashed out in a memorandum of understanding in 2011, the corporation agreed to pay $73 million to the city for the esplanade project.

The deal also includes the completion of Asser Levy Playground, a new park space that replaces a small street called Asser Levy Place located near the FDR Drive between 23rd and 25th streets, and is expected to open to the public next year.

The 53rd street portion of the esplanade is slated to be completed by 2019, and the complete esplanade is scheduled to open between 2021 and 2025.

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