LOWER MANHATTAN — Mayor Michael Bloomberg got a dog's-eye view of the newly opened East River Waterfront Thursday afternoon.
Before officially announcing the completion of the $165 million park's first two-block section, Bloomberg stopped by its centerpiece: a gated dog run, which features a sand pit, a water fountain and giant sculptures of a squirrel and a dog bone.
"While I am not a dog, my personal observation was that the dogs in there seem to be enjoying it," Bloomberg said after talking to several dog owners and their frolicking pets.
"I did not get bit once, just for the record," Bloomberg added, "though [Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver] was kind enough to remind me that on Staten Island [in 2009] another animal, a groundhog, ruined his teeth on my finger."
Bloomberg, Silver and other officials praised the new waterfront park, which opened in June between Wall Street and Maiden Lane, as a major step in revitalizing lower Manhattan and turning the East River into a place people want to visit.
"We have to return the river to the people of this city, to whom it belongs," Silver said.
"For too long, my neighbors on the East Side of lower Manhattan have not been able to enjoy the kind of access to open space, access to the waterfront, as my [neighbors] on the West Side."
The park includes bar-stool seating right along the East River, thickets of flowering plants and a series of steps leading down to the water, where people can get their toes wet during high tide.
Funded by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the new esplanade will eventually stretch from the Battery Maritime Building up to Pier 35, just north of the Manhattan Bridge.
City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden called the park "unapologetically urban," because it incorporates its industrial surroundings, including the elevated FDR Drive, which is now coated in a strip of purple paint.
"It's like the High Line," Burden said. "We're using the infrastructure that's here and transforming it into something people can use and love."