The City of New York has long awaited renovations to the East River Greenway. Squeezed between the FDR Drive to the west and the river to East, there are a few scattered public parks connected by a path that has been weathered and torn apart over the years. The proposed “Blueway” is a coordinated collaboration – between Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Community Boards 3 and 6, State Assembly Member Brian Kavanaugh, and New York’s WXY architecture and urban design - that takes suggestions from the general public to develop a scheme that works within the framework of the existing Greenway and provides specific sites waterfront access, development of wetlands and greater connectivity to the city and its waterways.
The stretch along the Greenway, which is the focus of WXY’s scheme, runs from Midtown East at 38th street to the Brooklyn Bridge. Running along the FDR, this area expands towards the river and finds its way under the highway’s overpass. Unlike the Hudson River Parkway along the West Side Highway, the East River Greenway has meager waterfront access and few piers to facilitate its development. A study, executed by several city departments in 2011, determined ways to improve amenities along the Greenway and proposed incorporating elements such as ambient lighting and street furniture. Now the focus has shifted to the river itself to determine ways in which to increase its usability and accessibility After Hurricane Sandy revealed the vulnerability of the hard edge of the East River, these same design considerations are now being used to create a resistant and effective buffer against future storm surges.
See what’s happening at the East River Blueway Plan after the break.
Architecture and urban design firm WXY has taken up the task of developing the Blueway, offering site-specific strategies along the length of the East River segment. By pooling information from the community, draft plans and schematic designs have been developed to revise some of the existing infrastructure in more conscious ways. WXY’s design introduces greening portions of the hardscape elements under the overpasses to soften its appearance and provide storm water and flood management. The plans also propose developing wetlands that can work to buffer against future storm surges. Wetlands can provide habitats for wildlife, sites for ecological restoration and environmental learning centers.
The hard edge along the East River is defined by its current infrastructure. Borough President Scott Stringer noted some community directed concerns in his conversation with Urban Omnibus last May. Solar One and Stuyvesant Cove Park, near Peter Cooper Village, shows how the public has reclaimed access to land along the waterfront that once had exclusively industrial interest. The community wants to expand its access to the waterfront with boat launches, an eco-dock, facilities for environmental educations and ecological restoration projects. Ferry access, restaurants and cafes, and fish cleaning facilities are among the diverse interests of the community. A natural beach has also attracted some attention to develop nesting grounds for wildlife.
Developing the park also requires thinking of new access points to the water front. Stringer points out that considerations include more bus stops, more bike paths, safer pedestrian crossings, and additional pedestrian bridges that are ADA accessible. Other challenges include storm water management that cascades from the FDR drive overpass and pools along the esplanade that flows into the river. The East River Blueway Plan is also coordinating with plans north and south of its focus to push toward a more seamless experience along the river. Currently, the path along the river cuts off at 38th street and begins again in at 59th street. Competitions like “Close the Gap” have sought design solutions from architects, planners and students. It is a long process, but with government and community commitment the project will be able to move beyond the drawing board and be realized.