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No Funding or Timeline To Close Gaps on 28 Blocks of the East River Greenway

The city’s proposal for an esplanade alongside the United Nations complex. Image: NYC EDC

Talk about a pre-emptive victory lap.

The city lacks the cash and has no timeline for completing the East River Greenway, officials admitted yesterday.

The de Blasio administration and the Economic Development Corporation issued a report claiming they have a path forward for the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, a bicycle and pedestrian path encircling the island first envisioned when David Dinkins was mayor [PDF]. But while some media outlets spun the report as a step forward, nothing has actually changed: The gaps in the greenway that were unaddressed before the report's release remain unaddressed today.

This winter, construction will begin on the $100-million "East Midtown Greenway" between 53rd Street and 61st Street, to be completed by 2022. Three other segments are also in the pipeline: Inwood Hill Park to Sherman Creek, set begin work in 2021 and cost $41 million; East 125th Street to East 132nd Street, set to begin in 2021 and cost $101 million; and the $5 million renovation of the Harlem Lane Playground, which will wrap up construction in 2021.

That leaves 28 blocks without a clear plan forward: the United Nations Esplanade between 41st Street and 53rd Street, and uptown segments between 145th Street and 150th Street and 154th Street and 163rd Street.

Image: NYC EDC
Image: NYC EDC

The unfunded gaps render that East Side of the greenway far less useful than its western counterpart, which has been completely seamless for a decade.

"There's a reason the Hudson River Greenway, and not the East River Greenway, is the nation's busiest multi-use path," said Transportation Alternatives spokesperson Joe Cutrufo. "If the city can fund the connections and improvements they've laid out, I think we'll see bike commuting on the East Side skyrocket from Inwood down through the East Village."

The EDC report does contain one piece of exciting news: the city now plans to upgrade the harrowing bottleneck alongside the FDR Driver between 13th Street and 15th Street, a proposal originated by Comptroller Scott Stringer when he was Manhattan borough president. Renderings in the report show a bridge over the existing path, but the proposal has neither a timeline nor funding.

Rendering of the bridge proposed for the greenway segment between 13th and 15th Streets. Image: NYC EDC
Rendering of the bridge proposed for the greenway segment between 13th and 15th Streets. Image: NYC EDC
Rendering of the bridge proposed for the greenway segment between 13th and 15th Streets. Image: NYC EDC

Those improvements won't come in time, however, for the L train shutdown, when the area is expected to see an influx of pedestrians and cyclists coming on and off ferries to and from Brooklyn.

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