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East River Esplanade Near 78th Street to Reopen Soon, DOT Says

By Amy Zimmer | January 4, 2012 2:12pm
A detour for East River esplanade users directing them into Manhattan streets because of the closed off chunk between East 76th and 79th streets.
A detour for East River esplanade users directing them into Manhattan streets because of the closed off chunk between East 76th and 79th streets.
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DNAinfo/Amy Zimmer

MANHATTAN — East Siders whose access to the East River waterfront was cut off by construction near 78th Street should be getting a chunk of their waterfront back soon, Department of Transportation officials said.

The DOT closed off the path between East 76th to 79th streets, diverting joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and others into busy streets since October 2010, in order to replace a crumbling pedestrian bridge at E. 78th Street, which spans the FDR Drive to the East River Esplanade. Now that the bridge is approaching completion, the span is set to reopen, DOT officials said.

The $11.9 million construction project was supposed to be completed by August 2011, but the complicated job of replacing the bridge — which required FDR Drive closures during weekend nights — has been riddled with delays.

"We're still working on the bridge so we're still a few weeks away," a DOT spokeswoman said.  She did not provide a specific date.

The DOT is currently finishing up work on a pedestrian fence and completing a few other details, such as touching up the painting.

DOT community liaison Deborah Howes had told DNAinfo that it was a "challenging" site.

"The contractor has been working well within constraints," she said. "Work has to be done at night. We don't want to close the FDR Drive during the day. It's a very busy highway."

The East 78th Street pedestrian bridge was rated by the city as one of its the three worst bridges prior to its overhaul. It was falling apart and didn't meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, it was not wide enough for bikes and walkers to fit side-by-side, and it didn't provide sufficient clearance for some emergency vehicles on the FDR Drive.

The replacement bridge was built in Camden, N.J. and shipped to the Upper East Side by barge then hoisted up in October 2011 for the installation. For more than a year, people trying to access the waterfront have been cut off from a segment of it and redirected to entrances going south at East 71st Street or north at East 81st Street.

"I've been jogging or biking up from 60th Street and down for years, and this is has been a big interruption for everybody," said Neil Martin, 63, who works in public relations and lives in the East 50s. "I am, however, totally in favor of replacing bridges before they fall down." 

And he said he got to see sides of the city he may have missed otherwise.

"The detour let me show support for the strikers at Sotheby's," he said, referring to the art handlers who have been locked out since August from the elite auction house on York Avenue near East 71st Street.