MANHATTAN — Huge potholes and crumbling bulkheads along the East River esplanade stretching from East 60th to East 125th streets may soon get fixed.
Repair work for the some of the most decrepit parts will be able to move forward thanks to $900,000 in capital funding that City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin secured in the city budget for the esplanade — but residents don't believe that will be enough.
Many Upper East Siders envy the Hudson River greenway's development on the west side, and recently launched ramped-up efforts on improving their waterfront esplanade.
A conservancy called "The Esplanade (E. 60th – 125th Street)" recently started up and is expected to host fundraisers in the fall to raise money for the space. Civitas, a community group on the Upper East Side and East Harlem, will launch a design contest for this section of the esplanade — using $6,000 also secured by Lappin's office.
The groups and others have also been clamoring for improving the access to the waterfront at East 96th Street's chaotic intersection with five streets and highway on-ramps that pedestrians have to traverse without crossing signals and barely-visible painted crosswalks on the ground.
"We're really excited about the momentum that’s building up around turning the East River Esplanade into the kind of public space that East Siders want and deserve," Lappin's spokesman, John Moore said.
"The funding in this year's budget will help fix the most serious safety concerns that are on the esplanade now and lay the groundwork for a broader plan for the future," he said. "We will continue to seek more funding from the city, state and federal government and from private sources as well."
Many Upper East Siders have said they would rather see money go to improving their waterfront than in building a garbage facility at East 91st Street along the East River.
Residents have been fighting the facility, which the city allocated $125 million to build as a way to ensure that Manhattan takes more responsibility for disposing of the trash it produces.
The east side station, however, would send up to 54 trucks an hour barreling through a densely populated area onto a ramp bisecting the popular recreation center at Asphalt Green and, residents have complained.
"All of this money is going to a marine transfer station but there's no money for parks," said Peggy Price, co-chair of Community Board 8's Parks Committee at a recent meeting where members expressed concerns that the $900,000 would be insufficient to fix the esplanade.
"We've gotten an allocation where there isn't enough money to do anything," Price said.
Lappin had also allocated $500,000 in last year's budget for a comprehensive engineering study for the waterfront pubic space.
A Parks Department spokesman said that $400,000 of that money has or will be used for reconstruction of the sinkholes on the esplanade and that the department is meeing this week with a subcontractor who bid on the project "to confirm they are confortable with the scope of the work."
According to a recent survey Civitas conducted of 400 residents on the Upper East Side and East Harlem, nearly two-thirds of responders wanted improvements to the East River Esplanade and its surroundings. Nearly 40 percent East Harlemites cited concerns about the lack of access to the waterfront.
"The fact that there's additional funding to work with is great news," said Hunter Armstrong, of Civitas. "There's a lot of recognition and need in the community that the eastern section of East Harlem and the Upper East Side are really lacking in public space and that there's a great need in creating better access to the waterfront."