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Floating Pools Among Resident Ideas for East River 'Blueway'

By Mary Johnson | April 10, 2012 2:35pm

FLATIRON — A series of floating pools dotting Manhattan's East River shore or elevating the heliport on East 34th Street to create more open space were among the bold visions several dozen community members suggested Monday night at a public forum about re-imagining the waterfront.

It was the first of several meetings dedicated to the East River Blueway, a proposal that aims to provide greater access to the river for recreational, educational and environmental activities.

Over the next few months, locals will be invited to share their vision for the chunk of waterfront that stretches from the Brooklyn Bridge to East 38th Street.

"It’s time for the East Side to have an iconic public space," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who developed the concept along with Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, the New York State Division of Coastal Resources, Community Boards 3 and 6 and the Lower East Side Ecology Center.  

"The community is going to be planning this," Stringer told the roughly 80 community members who came to Baruch College for the event. "It starts tonight."

The Blueway concept was first floated two years ago but has been gaining momentum in recent months.

The design firm, WXY Architecture + Design, was recently tapped to create a master plan for roughly 3.5 miles of haphazard waterfront paths, which are abruptly severed in some places and narrow in others. A website has been set up to collect community input and share progress on the project.

At Monday’s meeting, residents broke off into groups to focus on the stretch of waterfront between East 14th and East 38th streets — the part that lies within Community Board 6's boundaries.

For instance, to alleviate the bottleneck between East 14th and 18th streets that forces pedestrians and cyclists into a snug pathway, residents proposed creating a pedestrian flyover that would run above the existing trail. They called for resting points along it so that people could get out of the way of foot and bicycle traffic and enjoy the space.

Because drainage issues have plagued Stuyvesant Cove Park, which stretches between East 20th and 23rd streets, residents suggested storm water outlets. They called for sewage treatment mechanisms to keep waste from tainting the East River during floods and permeable surfaces that could act as a sponge when the area gets deluged.

"We want educational opportunities in this part of Stuyvesant Cove," added Ellen Imbimbo, a member of Community Board 6, noting that Solar One's presence there has helped. "We want kayaking and rowing."

Imbimbo and her group also proposed adding floating pools, a community boathouse and food vendors.

"We are not only pie-in-the-sky and dreamers, but we also included a restroom over here," Imbimbo added, drawing laughs from the crowd. "So we have our feet on the ground as well."

Near the Waterside Plaza development further north, several residents agreed that a docking area that serves lots of party boats could be better used as a floating pool, or perhaps turned into a pier for more public access.

Community members suggested elevating the East 34th heliport that lies along the waterfront, just across the FDR Drive from New York University's Langone Medical Center, to create more opportunities for the pedestrian and bike path underneath it.  They also proposed stacking the dozens of cars that park near there to open up more space for recreation.

Adam Lubinsky, managing principle of WXY, said the ideas would be taken into consideration for the master Blueway plan the firm expects to release this fall.

"That’s the real starting point here: How can we actually engage with a river that we’ve kept our distance from for so long?" Lubinsky said. "There’s just, like, a critical mass and energy around this that I really think is going to make things happen."