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New East River Blueway Renderings, Details Revealed!

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WXY Architecture, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh have been teasing the East River Blueway plans for a few months now, and last night at the Cooper Union, the full proposal was finally unveiled. Most of the cool stuff?a beach under the Brooklyn Bridge, salt marshes, a swooping pedestrian bridge?had already been revealed, but we got a few new looks at what the Blueway aims to create (compiled with the previously-released renderings in the gallery above) and how it can protect our waterfront. The Blueway plans were in the works for a year before Hurricane Sandy hit, but the designers said the damage wrought by the storm put even more impetus on mapping out the Blueway.

The East River Blueway stretches from the Brooklyn Bridge to 38th Street, and it has two main goals: to create a more resilient, sustainable waterfront and to give people more recreational access to the water. Pretty much every element incorporated into the design does both of these things.

Below the Brooklyn Bridge, a naturally occurring sandy beach would be revamped into a place people would actually want to visit, with terrace seating and a kayak launch. Along the East River Esplanade, freshwater wetlands would be built out catch and clean stormwater runoff from the elevated FDR Drive. These marshes would also help absorb storm surges and provide greenery in an area where there is currently none. Continuing north, access would be improved to East River Park, a waterfront green space that's underused because it's difficult to get to. WXY calls for a planted pedestrian bridge that creates a canopy of trees so visitors feel like they're in the park before they even get there.

At 14th Street, the plan gets more ambitious. Currently, this location is the "pinchpoint" of the East River waterfront. The FDR Drive is at street level here, and cyclists and pedestrians are squeezed onto a path that can't accomodate both at the same time. The ConEd substation?the one that blew during Hurricane Sandy and shutdown lower Manhattan?also sits right here. WXY designed a swooping X-shaped pedestrian and cyclist bridge called the Blueway Crossing that would rise above the FDR to give safer, better access to park goers, while at the same time acting as a flood barrier to protect ConEd.

Near 20th Street, Stuyvesant Cove Park would be enhanced with a floating pier boat launch that would rise and fall with the tides. A few blocks up, the rooftop of the skyport garage could be transformed into a public rooftop garden with vendors. The revenue generated by the vendors could help pay for upkeep of Stuyvesant Cove. Along the waterfront here, marshlands and other natural habitats would be created for wildlife and to help protect against flooding. At the northern most part of the Blueway, access gets more complicated, as NYU medical center parking and a heliport significantly block the waterfront. However, there is a 34th Street ferry pier here, so better access is needed. The Blueway would also increase plantings and improve lighting under the FDR overpass.

Currently, there's no set plan for any of this to actually be implemented, but the borough president's office has committed $3.5 million to study these strategies. They also hope that because the Blueway addresses storm mitigation that Hurricane Sandy funds for pro-building flood protection could be funneled toward the project.
· East River Blueway coverage [Curbed]
· East River Blueway [official]
· WXY Architecture [official]