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East River Esplanade section gets green light to proceed, mostly as planned

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After five years in debate, a two-block section of the East River Esplanade between Catherine Street and Pike Slip finally moves forward

East River Esplanade

After five years stalled in the pipeline, a portion of the East River Esplanade between Catherine Street and Pike Slip will be able to move forward as planned. On Thursday night the Department of Environmental Protection announced that they are dropping the plan to redo some water mains near the proposed stretch of esplanade that would have prohibited the city’s Economic Development Corporation from moving forward with the redevelopment.

It’s all a bit technical but Bowery Boogie and The Lo-Down say the long and short of it is that if the DEP had decided to redo the subterranean water mains, the EDC wouldn’t be allowed to make street upgrades within a 15-foot vicinity of the mains. If the DEP had stuck to its guns, it would have forced the city to scrap plans for a turf field that would enliven the downtown stretch under the FDR Highway—but the agency has decided that the water mains are in fine shape, and won’t be upgrading them for the next 20 to 30 years after all.

So what does it all mean? For starters, the city can finally push forward with this section of the East River Esplanade. The advancement comes only five years after it was announced and two years after it was expected to be complete—but that’s city government for you.

The delay has also given the city some time to think about what aspects of their initial plan they want to hang onto and which they want to ditch. The stretch of esplanade was initially slated to get planter-lounge seating, bar stools overlooking the river, porch-evoking glider swings that hang from the FDR, fishing docks that cantilever over the water, terraced bleacher seating, and a small skate park. But in the interim, the EDC has decided to knock the terraced seating, some additional seating, and the skate park from the plans.

The Lo-Down notes that the procurement process for the two-block stretch is now poised to begin, with construction expected to start this summer. The project is expected to take about a year.