UN Deal Clears Way to Close East River Greenway Gap Over Next Decade

Construction on the final segment won't start until roughly 2020, but when complete, the midtown gap in the East River Greenway will be filled. Image: East Side Open Space ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/65191798@N05/6097765062/in/set-72157627071931805/##via Flickr.##

The signing of an agreement to close the East River Greenway gap between 38th Street and 60th Street is big news for people who want to enjoy the waterfront on Manhattan’s open space-starved East Side. There’s finally a realistic plan in place to build a continuous route to walk, run, or bike along the water. When finished, it could form the backbone of the bike network on the East Side.

But the deal signed this week is an early step in a complicated and lengthy process; construction will take place in three stages and won’t wrap up for at least a decade. We checked in with City Council Member Dan Garodnick, a strong supporter of the greenway project, to hear how the process will move forward from here.

Building the full esplanade will cost roughly $200 million. To fund the project, the city turned to a land deal with the United Nations. The City will turn over a piece of the under-used Robert Moses Playground to the United Nations for $70 million and pay for the rest with the proceeds from the sale of One and Two UN Plaza, buildings in which the city owns a stake.

The first $70 million can’t pay for the entire greenway, Garodnick explained, meaning work will have to be done in phases. The playground deal will fund an extension of the greenway from 60th Street south to 53rd, where caissons left over from an FDR Drive detour are already in place. That first segment will connect to an existing pedestrian bridge over the highway at 51st Street.

Once the UN buildings have been sold — which Garodnick said could take some time, depending on the market, since the agreement requires them to go for a high enough price to pay for the construction work — work could take place on the southern portion of the greenway.

At the same time, work will already be underway on turning the Con Ed pier between 38th Street and 41st Street into a greenway and parkland. Construction on the Con Ed pier should begin soon, according to a press release from the mayor’s office. But work on the first new segment of the greenway likely won’t start until 2016. At the southern end, work won’t begin until roughly 2020.

Moreover, the agreement signed Wednesday is a memorandum of understanding putting the city, state and United Nations on the path to a completed deal; there’s still a lot of legal work to be done in addition to design and construction. While this deal clears the way for a continuous off-street cycling route along the East Side, it will be a long while before that connectivity materializes.

  • Guest

    “That first segment will connect to an existing pedestrian bridge over the highway at 51st Street.”

    This must refer to the bridge in Peter Detmold Park. That bridge can’t be more than four feet wide. And using it involves lots of stairs at either end. I can’t imagine how that bridge could be made bikeable or ADA-compliant without a total teardown and replacement.

  • vnm

    Peter Detmold Park has two sets of stairs. One connects the waterfront greenway with the pedestrian bridge over the FDR. This stairway is roughly similar in height/width to the stairway interrupting the existing East River Greenway at 81st Street. Then there’s the stone stairway that leads from the ped bridge up to 51st Street. At a minimum, each would need to have one of those metal bike tire troughs (not sure of their proper name) installed, but that wouldn’t satisfy ADA.  

  • Larry Littlefield

    This will take a lot of long term commitment by the city’s bureaucracy and political class. Like there has been for the third water tunnel.  Unlike what has been for the Second Avenue Subway.

    The good news:  it is not expensive by the standards of most improvements, assuming it is a walkway and park as well as a bikeway on the West Side.  Basically, $200 million a year is a huge cost, but a one-time cost of $200 million for a significant public improvement is not.

  • vnm

    While plans for this section of the East Side Greenway have been inching forward, there has been some tangible progress in Harlem.

    In April 2010, the Parks Dept. opened the a beautiful, A+ new section between 138th Street and 145th, with entrances at 139th & Fifth and 142nd & Fifth. This created a 12-block-long greenway segment by connecting to a pre-existing fragment that extended as far south as 133rd Street and had an entrance at 135th & Madison. So there’s now a great but little-used segment along the Harlem River waterfront awaiting connection to the main part of the greenway, which ends at 124th Street (with an entrance at 120th & Paladino).

    So in addition to the U.N. area, the East Side Greenway has a nine-block gap between 124th and 133rd Streets. I think this section is supposed to be built after the DOT is finished replacing the Willis Avenue Bridge and widening/adding automobile approach ramps. It’s now an open question as to which segment will open first, one of the U.N.-area pieces or the one in Harlem.

    The ride from the Battery to 145th Street is going to be incredible, when it’s finally done. But ugh, I can’t stand the wait. The Second Avenue Subway will be running to 96th Street when construction *starts* on the last section of U.N.-area greenway in 2020. The World Trade Center will be rebuilt, and the Long Island Rail Road will be stopping at Grand Central. 

  • Anonymous

    The bike paths along the river are having an unintended effect.  Lots of us in the ‘burbs are coming down to Manhattan’s west side with our bicycles!  In Westchester, they are driving to Dyckman Street and taking the river bike path down to the Battery and back with their kids.

    Note to DOT: If there was a safe-for-children bike path going east-west from a MetroNorth station, they would take the train.

  • Michael Steiner

    @HamTech87: From the Hudson line you already have a more-or-less safe-for-children connection, either via Marble Hill Station and 218th/Seaman or, if you don’t mind a hill, from Spyten Duyvil Station up to bike path on Henry Hudson Bridge and through Inwood park….


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