LOWER EAST SIDE — Public kayaking, freshwater wetlands and a new beach could be on the way to Manhattan's East Side, thanks to an updated East River Blueway Plan that was unveiled Thursday evening.
The proposal, presented by Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh at a public meeting at the Cooper Union, is the latest step in an effort to reimagine the waterfront between East 38th Street and the Brooklyn Bridge as a refuge from city living. The Blueway would create public leisure spots and amenities while also including measures to protect the waterfront from extreme weather.
“When we set out to redesign an often forgotten stretch of our precious waterfront 16 months ago, we wanted a plan created by the community and for the community,” Stringer said. “The result is a roadmap that addresses the lack of access to the East River shoreline, as well as the critical weaknesses exposed by Hurricane Sandy.”
The final Blueway Plan, which does not yet have a budget or timeline, is subdivided into three geographic sections running from north to south: Stuyvesant Cove, East River Park and South Street.
To the north, the roof of the Skyport Garage would be revamped as a public garden with food vendors. Just to the south, at East 23rd Street, a portion of the river that is protected from tidal currents would be harnessed to build a floating dock, a launch point for kayaks and canoes.
In the middle section, the plan would address a pinch point at East 14th Street, where a pedestrian crossing narrows to just 4 feet. A new proposed bridge would provide easier and safer waterfront access but would also protect the Con Edison plant at the intersection from floodwaters, officials said.
Farther south, another bridge, the proposed Corlears Hook Park Bridge, would connect Corlears Hook Park and East River Park.
The proposal would also extend freshwater wetlands under the FDR Drive outward, using them as natural floodwater absorbers.
At the southernmost end of the target area, the plan would give the public access to a natural beach underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. The plan for the beach includes concession stands and kayak launch pads.
The Blueway Plan is a collaboration between Stringer and Kavanagh, as well as design firm WXY architecture + urban design, Community Boards 3 and 6, the Lower East Side Ecology Center and the New York State Department of Coastal Resources.
Stringer, who has pledged $3.5 million in capital funding to the project, had previously sketched out the plan in his annual State of the Borough speech in February.
The unveiling on Thursday comes after more than a year of meetings with local community groups and both city and state organizations, at which the public was invited to share ideas for waterfront improvement. The team behind the project also solicited feedback online, asking residents to plot ideas for new amenities or improvements on a map of the waterfront.
“At long last we have a comprehensive, community-driven vision for our East River waterfront,” said Kavanagh. “We’ll provide a continuous connection from one part of our community to the next, making the Blueway a great common public space, and allowing everyone to enjoy the unique parks and other amenities along the way.”