The implementation of the East River Waterfront Esplanade continues with the construction of Phase 3, which upgrades the section of the esplanade extending from Catherine Street to Pier 35. Work includes rehabilitating Pier 35, a 80’x400’ structure near Rutgers Street, into a landscaped waterfront park for passive recreational activities. When complete, visitors will enter the pier via a bridge, which spans the an constructed intertidal habitat for aquatic species called “EcoPark.” Other amenities to look forward to are a vine wall that screens the adjacent Sanitation building from view and forms a distinctive backdrop for the pier, sloped lawns that provide sweeping views toward the East River waterway, and plenty of seating opportunities including a group of “porch swings” at the far end of the pier. Structural rehabilitation of Construction of Pier 35 is targeted to be complete by the end of 2014.
Also currently underway is the construction of the esplanade portion of Phase 3. When complete, this section of the waterfront esplanade connecting Pier 35 south to Pike-Allen will provide area residents and visitors a mixture of more active programming such has fitness machines, Pétanque courts, and basketball courts. While most of this area of the 60’-wide esplanade is under the FDR Drive, planters containing native coastal species will be installed on the water’s edge as much as possible. Phase 3 Esplanade is expected to be open to the public by Spring 2014.The western portion of the esplanade will continue to be under construction for a water main replacement and installation of a bikeway.
Design for Phase 4 concluded at the end of 2013 and will go into construction in 2014. Currently undergoing final review by the Public Design Commission, Phase 4 continues the esplanade from Pike-Allen two more blocks to the south, ending at Catherine Street. This phase is the final funded section of the East River Waterfront Esplanade project. When complete in 2015, it will provide similar esplanade amenities similar to those found in previous phases – bar seating and planters at water’s edge, fishing balconies, and recreational amenities such as skateboard features, exercise equipments, and a multi-purpose playfield.
After years of community outreach, planning, design, and construction, the first section of East River Waterfront Esplanade opened in July, 2011 ( view Press Release). Located in Community District 1, this brand new section of waterfront esplanade spans from Maiden Lane for two blocks to Wall Street, and provides a place for the tens of thousands of residents, office workers, and visitors to Lower Manhattan to enjoy the waterfront. This first section of esplanade is part of a larger $165 million project that is revitalizing a once neglected two-mile stretch of City-owned land along the water’s edge from the tip of Lower Manhattan to East River Park north of the Manhattan Bridge. The vibrant esplanade will transform the Lower Manhattan and Lower East Side waterfronts into a pedestrian-friendly new public open space destination with sweeping views across the East River and New York Harbor. Upon completion of the larger project in 2013, the two-mile esplanade will provide a contiguous pedestrian walkway and a bicycle pathway along the East River from Battery Park to East River Park.
Along the new esplanade are plantings and trees comprised of native coastal species, as well as seating elements evocative of the area’s maritime past. Elevated bar stool seating offers visitors an opportunity to sit next to the railing and look out over the water toward Brooklyn. The railing at the bar also doubles as a tabletop on which users can eat, use a laptop or read. The esplanade also features chaise lounges, game tables, planter walls and waterside benches. The “look-out” (a.k.a. “get-down”) is a series of stadium-like steps leading to the water at the foot of Wall Street that enables visitors to sit and observe the water with unobstructed views. A new state-of-the-art dog park features a climbing bridge, sand pit, splash pad and dog house. The entire esplanade is unified by a newly installed purple girder underneath the FDR Drive that will be illuminated at night and visible over the esplanade and across the river.
Future sections currently under construction include additional portions of the esplanade from the Battery Maritime Building to Wall Street, a restaurant pavilion at Maiden Lane, a redeveloped Pier 15, and a restroom pavilion at John Street. Planning, design, and marine work are also well underway for esplanade improvements and Pier 35 in Community Board 3 to the north, which is expected to open to the public by 2013.
The ERW was initiated in 2004 by the Department of City Planning in cooperation with NYC Economic Development Corporation to transform a two-mile stretch of long neglected waterfront into a spectacular waterfront esplanade. Spanning from the Battery Maritime Building in the south to East River Park in the north, ERW’s bold and ambitious plan will contribute to the revitalization of Lower Manhattan by improving waterfront access, enhancing pedestrian connectivity, and providing amenities for public use, recreation, and enjoyment. Implementation of the project is critical for the on-going efforts to reclaim NYC’s waterfront and thereby improve quality of life for local residents, workers, and visitors in Lower Manhattan.
Based on extensive input from the local community, area elected officials, City and State agencies, and civic associations, the City developed an innovative waterfront park design that is flexible and diverse, responds creatively to the various neighborhoods adjacent to the East River and to the challenges posed by urban infrastructure at the water’s edge. Below is a brief summary of new amenities to be found throughout the ERW:
The East River Waterfront design emphasizes continuity along the water’s edge, and restores a missing link in the Manhattan Greenway. Traditional esplanade elements have been re-interpreted into unique designs that harken back to this waterfront’s industrial past. A new, customized railing will lean in and out along the water’s edge and invite users to engage with the waterfront in different ways. Bar stools, installed next to portions of the railing, will provide a place to eat lunch, read the newspaper, use a laptop or reflect on the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. A new integrated lighting system will reflect off the underside of the FDR Drive structure, providing continuous, soft, and indirect lighting to the esplanade, while vertical lights incorporated in the railing will shimmer off the water. The paving, made up of oversized hexagonal pavers of various shades of gray, will animate the esplanade.
Ample seating will be provided by furniture and planter walls, which take the form of boxes and crates that are evocative of cargo resting on the water’s edge during the days when the waterfront was North America’s largest shipping hub.
Cyclists will finally be able to safely bike along the waterfront on a continuous Class I bikeway that is separated from vehicular traffic. This bikeway will connect Battery Park to East River Park, helping to complete the Manhattan Greenway.
Landscape plantings, which are a key open space amenity, will be maximized where adequate sunlight exists. The plantings offer glimpses of a progression of upland vegetation to coastal grasses which are native to this region, from canopy trees to shrubs to wild flowers and grasses.
The esplanade design reinforces the maritime character and history of the area by utilizing traditional waterfront materials that have been reinterpreted through contemporary applications and fabrication techniques. Esplanade users will have access to amenities that will help reconnect the city to the water’s edge, create a continuous open space, and generate a diverse and active waterfront.
The construction of the FDR Drive in the 1950’s severed the city’s access to East River and the relationship between the upland neighborhoods and the waterfront. The proposed pavilions situated under the Drive will help to repair this lost connection and restore active uses to the waterfront. These pavilions will serve community and commercial uses with their imaginative architectural expressions that will complement the public open space as well as return the vitality of the city to the water’s edge.
Historically, the slips were areas where the river “slipped” into the city’s grid. Several significant slips are identified and transformed into “Look-outs”. At these historic locations, steps are carved into the sea wall to allow unencumbered views of the East River and to provide the opportunity to get down closer to the water
Taking its cue from two-story recreation piers of the late 19th century, Pier 15 lifts its primary recreation area to the second level. Nestled beneath the recreation area, and recalling historic storehouses and cargo areas that were located on the lower level of recreation piers are two “boxes” which will house waterfront related programming such as a maritime education center and a café. On the north edge of the pier is a ramp leading up to an “amphitheater” seating area, which will give new and intimate views of the tall, historic ships of the South Street Seaport. Reaching the upper level, visitors can picnic, sunbathe, or simply lounge on its gently sloped lawns, and enjoy spectacular views of the East River and New York Harbor from its elevated perspective.
On the lower level, there will be big, wooden chaise lounges, oriented due south for maximum enjoyment of the sun in a comfortable reclined position. All around the perimeter of the pier will be maritime infrastructure to accommodate historic and visiting ships and various waterborne transport vessels.
The Pier 35 design is a series of folded topographies that create outdoor rooms for recreational activities. Because of Pier 35’s unique location and orientation, visitors will be able to view the city from an unusual perspective. A special feature on this pier is the “Eco Park”, an intertidal zone that will provide habitat for aquatic species and a dynamic tidal landscape replete with educational and interpretive opportunities. Additional amenities to be provided on Pier 35 are a series of tilted lawns interspersed with landscape dunes and scattered trees, a terraced podium creating a place for elevated views, and a folded screen wall planted with vines that forms a strong backdrop for the public spaces and screens the adjacent sanitation building.
The project will demonstrate the City's continued commitment to sustainability through a series of initiatives such as minimizing energy demand and consumption, maximizing use of recycled and sustainable materials, specifying low-maintenance plantings, and reducing storm water runoff in the park. ERW will also seek LEED certification, proving that "green" and high performance measures have been incorporated.
With funding from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), the Department of City Planning, working closely with the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), the Department of Transportation and the Department of Parks and Recreation, undertook a year-long study of the East River Waterfront in 2004, and produced the Concept Plan. During this study, over 70 meetings were held with community boards, tenant associations, civic leaders, maritime experts and local elected officials.
Since 2006, this intensive level of community involvement has continued with outreach efforts during the 2007 ULURP process for site selection and disposition of pavilion spaces, and also for actions related to the text amendment in 2008 ( zoning text amendment N 080358 ZRM). Subsequent updates on the design and the programming of the pavilions continue to be presented to the community for feedback and input. Well over 100 public meetings have now been held.
In addition, the ERW is under review by the Public Design Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Army Corps of Engineers for various federal, state, and local approvals.
Major project milestones have included the Final Environmental Impact Statement (adopted by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in November 2007), ULURP approvals for the site selection and disposition of the pavilion component (approved in July 2007), schematic design (completed in August 2007), design development (completed in September 2008), and the RFEI process for Maiden Lane Pavilion (completed in June 2009). In June 2011 a RFP was issued for the maritime pavilion and berthing ship berthing spaces.
The Department of City Planning is tremendously proud of “doing something really important for New York City,” as juror Karen Van Lengen said when the project received the 55th Annual P/A Awards in 2008. For its innovation and excellence, the project also received the Waterfront Center’s “Excellence on the Waterfront Award,” as well as the Award for Excellence in Design in 2010 from the NYC Public Design Commission. The project has benefited from remarkable efforts from the consultant team, led by SHoP Architects and Ken Smith Landscape Architects, along with a joint venture of HDR and Arup engineers, and Tillotson Design Associates. Jacobs Engineering and Turner Construction Company are the construction managers carrying out the work on Pier 15 and Section 2. With NYCEDC as the lead agency and input from DCP, DOT, and Office of Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, final design and engineering is moving forward for the remaining construction phases.
The East River Waterfront Esplanade and Piers Project was a critical component of the Mayor’s 2002 Vision for Lower Manhattan. The proposed design takes a systematic approach to revitalizing an area once overflowing with waterfront activity by (1) focusing on connecting the city to the water’s edge, (2) creating continuity in the Manhattan Greenway, and (3) activating the waterfront year round by providing new cultural, community, commercial and recreation activities.
In late 2006, SHoP Architects and Ken Smith Landscape Architects were retained by EDC to develop detailed landscaping, seating, railing and pier designs for the East River Waterfront Esplanade. Together with their engineering consultants, Daniel Frankfurt and Ove Arup, and the ERW construction manager, Carter Burgess, they are laying the groundwork for implementation of the new park. Working with the City team of NYC Economic Development Corporation, the Department of City Planning, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Transportation, and the Office of Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding, the design and engineering team is moving forward with detailed design and engineering, soliciting community input, and seeking the necessary federal, state, and city approvals.
In mid-2004, the Department of City Planning, in conjunction with the Economic Development Corporation, embarked on the one-year study in mid-2004. Below is an overview of the complete Concept Plan which resulted in the document, “Transforming the East River Waterfront".
This planning and urban design study proposes short-term improvements and long-term strategies to reconnect Lower Manhattan's diverse communities to a two-mile stretch of East River waterfront. The study area, extending from the Battery to the southern edge of East River Park, straddles two community districts (districts 1 and 3) and forms a link between the financial district, the South Street Seaport, Chinatown and the Lower East Side. In May of 2005, the revitalization of the East River Waterfront, guided by this study, received $150 million of federal funding administered by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.
"Transforming the East River Waterfront" summarizes the study and documents the process leading to identifying the elements for a new and improved waterfront and public spaces for the East River in Lower Manhattan.
The East River waterfront has developed over the past 350 years as a central place in the city's maritime history. The city began here, and as it grew and developed, the island expanded into the river. As population expanded, the city promoted the infill of waterfront lots to serve the growing demand for land in Lower Manhattan. As a result, the current shoreline is more than three city blocks from the original shore. The present location of Pearl Street is in fact the original East River shoreline of Lower Manhattan. As the city's position as the premier port for trade on the east coast grew, so did the need for new piers to service the vessels coming and going out of the port. At its peak in the 1950's there were over 40 piers along this two-mile stretch of waterfront; today there are fewer than 10 remaining.
With the decline in maritime activity over the past 40 years, various master plans have been developed for this waterfront. The Water Street Access Plan in the 1970's envisioned Water Street as a commercial spine for modern office buildings and the expansion of the financial core. In the 1980's, the plan for East River Landing, inspired by Battery Park City, proposed new office development on the waterfront south of Fulton Street. In the 1990's, a new outpost for the Guggenheim Museum was proposed on the waterfront at the present location of piers 13 and 14 at the foot of Wall Street. Aside from some components of the Water Street Access Plan, none of these waterfront schemes have been realized to date.
The study seeks to enhance access to the waterfront, create new active and passive recreational opportunities, complete missing links in the Manhattan greenway, and provide a planning framework that sustains growth. To achieve these goals, the plan addresses a number of urban design challenges that include blocked access to the waterfront, underutilized waterfront, and the lack of amenities for public use and enjoyment of the shoreline.
For further information about the study, please contact the Manhattan Office, Department of City Planning, (212) 720-3480.