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Controversial East River Greenway on the Agenda at Public Meeting

By Mary Johnson | April 12, 2012 10:31am

MANHATTAN — Community Board 6 is hosting a question-and-answer session with several elected officials on Thursday night to discuss the development of the East River Greenway.

The forum, which is set to begin at 6 p.m. inside Alumni Hall A at NYU Langone Medical Center, is meant to clarify a variety of issues involved in the complicated and controversial project, as well as what progress has been made since the deal was solidified this past fall.

State Senator Liz Krueger, City Councilman Daniel Garodnick and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh — all of whom were intimately involved in crafting the esplanade plan — will attend the meeting and take questions.

“I hope that you can join us and learn not just about the legal and financial aspects of the process, but about what we can expect in the coming months,” Community Board 6 chair Mark Thompson wrote in a letter sent out to community members at the end of March.

The proposed East River Greenway — which is separate from the East River Blueway that was discussed at a public forum earlier this week — is a project that aims to close a 22-block gap in the waterfront esplanade.

As the area exists now, pedestrians and cyclists have only intermittent access to the waterfront in the stretch from East 38th to East 60th streets.

But this past October, the mayor signed off on a complicated deal — championed by some, pilloried by others — that would authorize a land swap with the United Nations to help finance the esplanade, which could cost up to $400 million, by some estimates.

The deal involves selling the western portion of Robert Moses Playground, located on First Avenue near East 42nd Street, to the United Nations for the possible construction of office space. That could free up several city-owned buildings that the UN is currently leasing, which could be sold and the money from that used to start construction on the Greenway.

In exchange for the loss of Robert Moses Playground, a new park is scheduled to be built at Asser Levy place, a two-block stretch between East 23rd and East 25th streets near the East River.

In a series of public forums last year, residents and community members debated the pros and cons of the project with elected officials, but questions have continued to come up at local meetings ever since.

Thursday’s forum is meant to address those uncertainties and concerns, Thompson said. It will be followed by additional question-and-answer sessions in the coming months.

The meeting is open to the public. It will be held inside Alumni Hall A at NYU Langone Medical Center at 550 First Ave. beginning at 6 p.m.