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Hospital for Special Surgery Pitches In to Build East River Esplanade

By Shaye Weaver | July 24, 2015 8:36am
 Rockefeller University's section of the East River waterfront will eventually see new landscaping, a sound barrier and a renovated seawall.
Rockefeller University's section of the East River waterfront will eventually see new landscaping, a sound barrier and a renovated seawall.
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Courtesy Rockefeller University

UPPER EAST SIDE — Private institutions are pitching in to make the East River Esplanade a reality.

The mayor's budget allotted $35 million last year for an upgrade of the East River waterfront, from East 60th to East 125th streets, and the City Council set aside more than $3 million toward the rehab of seawalls and walkways north of East 96th Street this year.

But private institutions like the Hospital for Special Surgery and Rockefeller University also plan to do their part.

The HSS announced on Thursday that it would install a water fountain, sound barriers and irrigation at the East River Esplanade next to its facility, between 70th and 72nd streets, before 2016.

HSS' improvements to the esplanade will be done as part of its approved $15.8 million plan to expand its west wing and build three additional operating rooms at its hospital next to the FDR Drive and East 70th Street.

As it expands, the hospital will be making improvements to the portion of its adjacent waterfront by installing sound barriers under its east wing building to cut down on noise from the FDR Drive.

It also plans to put in a water fountain near the East 71st Street pedestrian ramp, as well as new landscaping, and to bring in a water source for irrigation.

The irrigation component was especially a welcome feature for the Friends of the East River Esplanade, a community group committed to improving the waterfront, which has been in need of a water source for their own landscaping efforts.

"We’ve been asking for water on the esplanade for years," said Friends' board member Jennifer Ratner. "If we could accomplish this it would a huge boon, rather than schlepping water back and forth for irrigation."

In addition, the improvements to the waterfront along the hospital corridor will be beneficial for the patients and hospital employees, Ratner added.

"Moving forward, we hope community groups have even more influence in what happens with the esplanade so it's not a reiteration of what is already there," she said. "It should surprise and delight people and be on par with or even better than other waterfronts around the city that have been redeveloped."

But all plans still need to be approved by the city's parks department, according to Lisa Goldstein, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of HSS. Additional details on the design and the cost were not yet available, she said.

HSS will also contribute $20,000 to the conservancy group and agreed to place a senior staff member on the group's board to serve as a liaison.

The hospital's partnership with the Friends of the East River Esplanade will mirror that of Rockefeller University's relationship with the conservancy, which also has a liaison on the group's board.

The university, at 1230 York Ave., is preparing to build out the esplanade from East 64th to the centerline of 68th Street, as part of its plan to expand its facility, which includes adding a new research building along the shoreline.

The roughly $8 million plan includes repairing and cleaning the seawall by this fall and completing its portion of the esplanade by the spring of 2018, according to George Candler, the associate vice president for planning and construction at Rockefeller University.

The university's vision for that part of the esplanade includes a shared-use lane for bicyclists and pedestrians, more seating, more landscaping and a crash barrier between the FDR drive and the esplanade. An 8-foot-tall noise barrier will also be placed there, Candler said.

In addition, the university created a $1 million fund that would pay for the maintenance of the landscaping and esplanade in perpetuity.

New York Presbyterian Hospital/Cornell-Weill Medical Center and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have also agreed to coordinate with the city as it upgrades the waterfront, according to City Councilman Ben Kallos.

New York-Presbyterian is currently constructing an ambulatory care center and Sloan Kettering's new outpatient cancer care facility and science and health building are also under construction.

"Revitalizing and improving the East River Esplanade has been one of my top priorities and one of the best ways to do this is to engage in active public-private partnerships, like this one with HSS," said Kallos. "Everyone benefits when the Esplanade is improved and maintained, especially in a part of the city that has one of the lowest amounts of open space.”