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East River Greenway inches forward with $100M cash infusion

The long-dormant waterfront project is finally getting a boost

In theory, one of the final pieces of the East River Greenway was supposed to be on its way to completion by now. Plans for the parcel of undeveloped waterfront, which stretches from 38th to 60th streets on Manhattan’s East Side, have been in the works for more than a decade.

After brokering a deal with the United Nations and Con Edison, the city acquired several parcels of land it needed to complete the waterfront esplanade. Plans were put forth for three separate spaces, which would be completed in phases, and the first portion of that was due to open in 2015. Those plans, however, have yet to come to fruition; while a skyscraper designed by Richard Meier is now in the works nearby, the promised parkland is still up in the air. But that may soon change.

Today, Mayor de Blasio announced that the city would invest $100 million in a plan to build a waterfront esplanade that would stretch from 61st to 53rd streets, with construction due to start in 2019. The New York City Economic Development Corporation will head up the project, with several government agencies—including the Army Corps of Engineers and the New York state DEC—already signing off on it. If all goes according to plan, it should be completed by 2022.

Renderings of the project are similar to those that the NYCEDC has been circulating since at least 2013: This section of the greenway, known as the ODR Esplanade (so named because, according to the EDC, it uses “existing in-water caisson structures that supported the Outboard Detour Roadway during the recent reconstruction of the FDR Drive”), will have several multi-functional “nodes,” with sections dedicated to bike lanes, pedestrian pathways, seating, and more.

“The Hudson River Greenway has vastly improved quality of life on the West Side, and we want families in every corner in the borough to have that same access to bike, walk and play along the water,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “This is the first of many big investments we’ll make as we bring the full Greenway to reality.”

Local officials, including City Council members Ben Kallos, Dan Gardonick and Ydanis Rodriguez; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney also cheered the decision, with Garodnick noting that, “while we still have some considerable gaps, our plans just got a whole lot closer to reality.” Another $5 million will be allocated to a study of the Greenway’s remaining parcels, with the goal of clarifying next steps in finishing the entire waterfront.

While this long-dormant step in the process is finally moving forward, it’s far from the last step needed to close the entire Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, covering the island’s 32-mile circumference. Sections of the waterfront in Inwood, East Harlem, and the Lower East Side are still in the works as well.