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Work on Long-Awaited Sutton Place Waterfront Park to Begin This Month

By Shaye Weaver | June 7, 2017 2:23pm
 Construction of the park at Sutton Place South will begin this month, the Parks Department said.
Construction of the park at Sutton Place South will begin this month, the Parks Department said.
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Flickr/Zachary Korb

SUTTON PLACE — The plan to convert the backyard of an exclusive co-op into a public esplanade with new benches, game tables and access to two other parks has been given the green light after four years of planning, city officials said.

Starting later this month, the Department of Parks and Recreation and Dirtworks Landscape Architecture will begin work on the new green space, which is located at 1 Sutton Place South, on top of the FDR Drive between East 56th and 57th streets.

The revamped space will connect to existing parks at the end of 56th and 57th streets to make one continuous waterfront promenade in an area where there's a lack of green space, department officials said.

Once finished, the promenade will have new benches, chess and checkers tables, permeable pavers, security lighting and drain lines, officials said.

Credit: Dirtworks Landscape Architecture

The Parks Department chose Staten Island-based Capri Landscaping on Tuesday to perform the work for $1.4 million, records show.

Dr. Charles Coutinho — president of Sutton Area Community, a group of residents who have worked with the city to open a park there — said the organization is pleased with the final design.

"Haste is good, but it's better to do it right," he said on Wednesday. "Four years or more was productively spent on coming up with a plan fully suited to the area, and we're pleased that something is coming to fruition."

Green space is hard to find in the area because of its industrial past — which included meatpacking houses and breweries — but the new park will give the public a way to explore the East River area better, Coutinho explained.

"Unfortunately, New York, unlike most other major metropolitan cities like Paris or London has never invested in its river access to the same extent that those cities do," he added. "At this point we are willing to wait for something that fully meets our needs and desires on an aesthetic and practical level."

► READ: Sutton Place Park Will Open to Public by Fall 2015, City Says

► READ: Sutton Place Park Construction Delayed by More Than a Year

The project, which was originally planned for completion in 2015, was delayed after some community members opposed certain aspects of the design, including its fencing, gates and operating hours.

The Parks Department delayed construction to consider alternatives and get the community's backing. The new design removed the fences and gates, and extended the park’s hours until 9 p.m. between May and October, officials said.

The agency also had to wait on approvals from the state Department of Transportation and the city Department of Environmental Protection. An "extended due diligence" review was also done to make sure the contractor was meeting all the requirements, according to Parks Department spokeswoman Crystal Howard.

In 1939, the city leased the land that will now be used for the park space to the co-op at 1 Sutton Place South for $1 a year in exchange for building the FDR.

The 50-year lease expired in 1990, but the city didn’t take action to reclaim the land until years later.

In 2011, the city reached an agreement to let the co-op keep some of the land while taking back the rest to transform it into a public park.