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Millions Earmarked for East River Esplanade and Roosevelt Island Library

By Shaye Weaver | July 6, 2015 3:40pm
 The nonprofit group Civitas recommended turning the underutilized park at the southernmost part of the Esplanade into an urban beach.
The nonprofit group Civitas recommended turning the underutilized park at the southernmost part of the Esplanade into an urban beach.
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UPPER EAST SIDE — Roughly $5 million has been earmarked for green space projects across the neighborhood — including more than $3 million for the the ongoing East River Esplanade revitalization plan.

City Councilman Ben Kallos allocated $38,500 from his budget to put toward the esplanade project, which is also receiving another $3 million from Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Kallos serves on the East River Esplanade Task Force, which advocates for improvements to the park.  

The Council’s allocation for the project “should be over and above any previous funding commitments,” said Kallos spokeswoman Sarah Anders. “It is great that the Council has made this such a high priority, because open space on the East Side is so rare and very much needed.”

Last year, the mayor’s budget included $35 million for the estimated $115 million renovation project that is set to be done over the next 10 years, according to the Parks Department.

Some upgrades and repairs have already been completed, including fixing potholes, uneven pavement and sinkholes on the walkway along the East River and FDR Drive, between East 60th and East 125th streets. 

The project also includes repairing piers and seawalls along that stretch adding landscaping once structural work is completed.

The new funds from this year's budget will primarily support the rehabilitation of walls and walkways on the stretch of the Esplanade north of 96th Street, according to the Parks Department.

Several groups have formed to guide the design of the greenway, including the nonprofit Civitas, which recently made recommendations on how to improve the esplanade. It called for the addition of a beach on 60th Street, a boat launch on 96th Street and a waterfront park above the FDR Drive at 111th Street.

Kallos has also devoted more than $2 million from his budget to developing more green and open space at schools throughout the district. In addition, $885,000 will be used for New York City Housing Authority improvements, including green space and better security.

Mark-Viverito also budgeted $1.5 million toward Kallos' request to support the New York Public Library’s Roosevelt Island branch, which plans to open in a new space at 504 Main St. in 2017. 

The new building will have more than double the square footage of the current branch, going from 2,500 square feet to 5,200 square feet, and it will be ADA-accessible, said Amy Geduldig, a spokeswoman for the New York Public Library.

The City Council, former Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg originally allocated $5.7 million for the project between 2009 and 2013. Kallos' grant adds an additional $1.5 million for renovations to the new site, she said.