EDC: Phased East River Greenway Gaps Set to Be Filled by 2024

Support structures built in 2004 for a temporary roadway during FDR Drive reconstruction could be reused for the esplanade. This section could open as early as 2018, with other sections opening in 2015 and 2024. Photo: EDC

For years, the Hudson River Greenway has been the star of Manhattan’s greenway network, while usage of its East River sibling has been damped by a deteriorating pathway and gaps in the route. Now, with a renewed focus on the East Side waterfront, momentum is growing to complete the greenway, even though completion is more than a decade away.

One of the most important projects is filling the greenway’s gap through Midtown, currently under study by the city’s Economic Development Corporation. Sixty percent of the $5 million planning process is funded by the United Nations Development Corporation, and the remainder is from federal, state, and city funds. A deal between the city and the United Nations, brokered by state legislation, will enable the construction of a continuous waterfront greenway from 38th Street to 60th Street.

Last night, EDC hosted a meeting with the project’s community working group, and revealed some new information about the timeline for completing the greenway’s missing link.

To extend the greenway north from 38th to 41st Streets, $13 million from Con Edison would restore a deteriorating structure that the utility used for fuel deliveries, known as Waterside Pier, along a roughly 45-foot wide route that would open to the public in 2015. The greenway past the United Nations campus would be the last to open, in 2024, and the design would have to address security concerns likely to restrict access to First Avenue.

North of the United Nations, an existing dead-end waterfront esplanade is accessible by pedestrian bridge between 51st and 54th Streets, but the esplanade ends at 54th Street, where the FDR Drive is covered by apartment buildings until 58th Street. Along this section, EDC said support structures built in 2004 for a $139 million temporary roadway during FDR reconstruction could be reused for the esplanade — an idea that has idled for almost seven years. This section could open to the public in 2018.

The project, funded in part by Con Ed, the United Nations, and sale of city-owned buildings, would bridge the Midtown gap in the greenway. Map: EDC

A particular challenge for this project is that some of the East River’s deepest points — up to 100 feet — are very close to the Manhattan shoreline, with a lot of variability in the quality of bedrock, making construction on or beyond the river’s edge challenging and expensive.

This fall, EDC expects to present a preferred conceptual design to the working group, but last night EDC said that cyclists and pedestrians can expect a roomy greenway, with separate paths measuring at least 18 feet wide each.

In addition to the Con Ed funding for Waterside Pier, future phases of the project rely on $70 million from the United Nations as part of its acquisition of a section of the under-used Robert Moses Playground between 41st and 42nd Streets. Once UN offices move to the former playground site, the city-owned One and Two United Nations Plaza buildings would be put up for sale, and those revenues used to fund remaining construction.

  • dave “paco” abraham

    11 years to complete a greenway is painfully slow, but still.. this is progress nonetheless. With 2nd avenue subway coming and midtown east rezoning, more people will be living on the east side and require this type of open space. Hope this timeline is worst cast scenario and somehow things move at a much faster pace.

  • Bronxite

    2024, just the Midtown stretch (still gaps way uptown/Harlem River). Pitiful! What is this? The Second Ave Subway. The entirety of the Greenway should be completed in a reasonable 5 years max!

  • anon

    wow, great! I’ll finally be able to ride from home on the UES to work downtown without fighting traffic on Lex or Second or without crossing over to Hudson greenway. Amazing. Can’t wait. Just another 10 years…..

  • Anonymous

    For comparison, it took 2 years to build the Empire State Building, 4 years to construct the George Washington Bridge, 5 years to make the atomic bomb, and ~8 years to put a man on the moon…

  • Anonymous

    This is an optimistic guesstimate, and actual construction will take a lot longer, if it happens at all. Since when has a city project ever come in on time or within the budget?

  • Bronxite

    The city should seriously consider crowdsourcing this project! I just cannot believe how long this is projected is expected to take. Unreasonable!

  • Bronxite

    The city should seriously consider crowdsourcing this project! I just cannot believe how long this is projected is expected to take. Unreasonable!

  • Larry Littlefield

    That was a different country.

  • Joe R.

    I think quite a few people would be willing to donate a few days of free labor to get a project like this finished. Same thing with other areas which need work (like Plum Beach on the Belt Parkway Greenway). Really, these timetables are ridiculous. Something like this should take 10 months, not 10 years. It’s not like the Second Avenue Subway where they’re working around a lot of built infrastructure.

    BTW, is a direct connection from the greenway to the Queensboro Bridge in the plans here also, or will we have to wait until 2050 for that?

  • Bronxite

    It would be foolish not to link this section to the already completed East River Greenway just north of the 59th St Bridge. Then again, considering it will take 11 years to complete a project that should take much less then half that time…I wouldn’t be surprised!

    It pisses me off because safety is an issue for Southbound bicyclist on the East Side considering the Second Ave protected lane is incomplete, meanwhile you have NYPD ticketing cyclist for red lights and speeding drivers flying down Second Ave, racing from light to light with no issue.

    Count me in as one that would dedicate as much time as possible to helping assist any Greenway work I am capable of. If crowdsourced, I am not wealthy but I will donate as much as I am capable of at this time. I’m a student.

  • James Reefer

    Yeah, America during the first few of those, today, would be called a 3rd world country.

  • Daphna

    The money needed is miniscule compared to what is needed for road construction, road repair, bridge renovation, etc. There is always money in the budget for car infrastructure. It’s unfair that prospective east side greenway users must wait for the U.N. to build new offices on part of the Robert Moses Playground, so then NYC can sell the current buildings that house the United Nations, so that the money from that sale can fund this greenway section. There are other ways to get the money if that is all that is holding this back. 2024, 11 years away, is not acceptable.

  • KillMoto

    If all of us just dumped a pound of dirt into the East River every time we went by there…

  • Remember Sandy? This project is DOA.

  • Anonymous

    this is going to take forever…why not finish the protected bike lane on 1st avenue from the 50-60’s and make it bidirectional?

  • David

    YES! Crowdsource! I’ve been waiting for an excuse to use my dredger more. It’s taking up a lot of room in my closet

  • Bronxite

    Off topic but I wish Streetsblog had a traditional message board rather than only a comments system. It would be easier to have more detailed discussions on topics like this.

  • Occupy 1st and 2nd avenues.