UPPER WEST SIDE — New bike and walking paths, play areas, a renovated dog park and a shade structure are all coming to Riverside Park South under a sprawling redesign plan, according to the Parks Department.
The park's update, which focuses on the area between West 68th and 72nd streets, stems from a $2.5 million grant from City Councilwoman Gale Brewer that she secured during negotiations with Extell Development Company on the Riverside Center project.
Margaret Bracken, the Parks Department's assistant landscape architect for Riverside Park, met several times in the past year with Community Board 7 and members of the public to hammer out a design for this section of the 13-year-old park.
A ballpark, dog park and walking and bike paths all intersect in the green space, creating hazardous conditions, said Petra Mager, a landscape architect from the firm Abel Bainnson Butz LLP, which came up with the new design.
"There are difficult conditions at the bikeway and pedestrian path. It’s quite dangerous at times where the bikeway gets narrow," she said.
In response, the department is lengthening the bike path and creating a separate pedestrian path for the area between West 69th and West 71st streets.
"The splitting of the paths was really an epiphany for us," Bracken said.
The esplanade will be widened in that section so that bikes and pedestrians can coexist more safely, said Mager, who added that about 100 bike racks will be sprinkled throughout the area.
Nearby, the Riverside South Dog Run — which visitors have criticized for its poor lighting, crumbling fences and generally poor conditions — will also see a significant overhaul.
The dog run, which is hidden under Miller Highway, will be moved slightly west so that part of it is exposed to the sky. It will also have a more triangular shape than the current elongated form. The run's wood chips will remain in place but the fencing will be fixed, a permanent dog water fountain will be added, and it will get two entrances at its north and south sides, officials said.
The update also creates a pathway around the perimeter of the park's Little League field, allows for erosion-prevention work on the field and adds fencing and new benches for spectators.
Residents and parkgoers thought the space under the highway was being wasted. Though there are a few basketball courts and handball courts there now, there's also empty space used as storage and places where some people relieve themselves, Bracken said.
The new design adds a climbing area for kids as part of an attempt to move kids off of the heavily trafficked bike and pedestrian paths, where they were climbing on boulders that will be removed. It will also include a skate park and a fitness area geared toward teens and adults.
"It will cater to people who come here for active recreation," Mager said.
New lighting will be added under the highway to increase safety, she noted.
In addition, "the existing natural turf soccer field at 70th Street will be resurfaced. A new irrigation system will be added and the field will be regraded to improve the current poor drainage conditions," a Parks Department spokesman said.
The lack of shade along Pier I, which extends from West 70th Street, has long been a complaint of parkgoers who visit and attend concerts on the pier.
"It’s very popular but also very, very hot," Mager said. "There’s no respite from the sun at all."
As a solution, the Parks Department is adding a triangle-shaped, perforated metal shade structure that's 120 feet by 100 feet by 64 feet, she said.
Farther south in the park, at West 62nd Street, the city is adding about a dozen trees to a synthetic green space known as Locomotive Lawn to provide afternoon shade so that more parkgoers will use the area.
"We think [the redesign] makes a huge improvement," Bracken said.
The Parks Committee of CB7 voted unanimously to approve the design, and the plans will next go in front the full board on Nov. 6 before heading to the city's Design Commission on Nov. 13, Bracken added.
Construction will take about 18 months and the shade structure will likely not be ready until summer 2015.