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Beaches Coming to the East River Under Harlem Nonprofit's Redesign

By Gustavo Solis | February 6, 2015 3:23pm | Updated on February 9, 2015 9:03am
 A state lawmaker and local nonprofit both released studies recommending ambitious improvements to the East River Esplanade this week.
The Future of the East River Esplanade
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East Harlem — A beach on 60th Street, a boat launch on 96th Street, a cove on 107th Street and a waterfront park above the FDR Drive on 111th Street, these are some of the ways a nonprofit wants to change the East River Esplanade.

Citivas, a nonprofit that promotes quality of life issues in the Upper East Side and East Harlem, released an 8-month study on how to develop the East River Esplanade Thursday evening.

"It feels wonderful [to complete the study]," said Civitas Executive Director Emma Bologna. "The community was so involved in the process and we have had a great outpouring of support."

The announcement comes days after State Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez released his "Tale of Two Rivers" report that explored ways of developing the narrow waterfront space between the FDR and East River.

Rodriguez’s office and Civitas worked together on their studies. While the assemblyman focused on policy, the nonprofit focused on design and feasibility, Bologna said.

Civitas has already started working on making its recommendations happen, Bologna added.

The nonprofit has partnered up with the New York Harbor School to study the environmental benefits of building up the shoreline between 96th and 115th streets, it announced Thursday evening.

Expanding the shoreline would not only bring life to the area but also help protect it from future floods, according to the report.

Additionally, Civitas is developing plans and a cost estimate analysis for temporarily reopening Pier 107 to the public and creating a boat storage facility on vacant land under the FDR Drive at 96th Street.

Civitas’ study also outlines long-term projects that would dramatically change the look of the East River Esplanade.

Those plans include reconstructing Pier 107 into a large multi-use cove-like structure that sticks out into the East River and turning the pedestrian bridge that connects Thomas Jefferson Park to the Esplanade into a land bridge that is integrated with the two parks.

"I definitely think this is the start of something special,” Bologna said. "If we all work on this together we can create an amazing waterfront park."

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who hosted the unveiling of the study, lauded Councilman Ben Kallos and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for securing $35 million for immediate repairs.

But more needs to be done to bring the East River Esplanade up to par with waterfront parks on the west side, she said.

“I know to the credit of the mayor he put in some money but we need much more,” she said. “It’s small steps, that’s how it starts.”