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

The city is moving forward on construction on key segments, but major gaps remain.

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

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

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.

  • AnoNYC

    Anyone have a PDF on what’s happening at the Triboro/FDR right now. I know that the ramps were replaced, the highway was shifted, and a flyover was created, but how much work is left before that project is finished?

    That project is the biggest delay when it comes to finishing the Willis Ave Bridge connection to the greenway. It’s also a headache in general. I think it’s one of the most disruptive highway projects in NYC right now.

  • vnm

    It’s kind of hard to find that much information on this project, which, you’re right, is having a huge impact on the efforts to build the Greenway between East 125th & 132nd. It seems that the whole highway is being shifted over by some number of feet and elevated to help eliminate cross-interference of motorists looking to enter the southbound Harlem River Drive from the Third Avenue Bridge with those looking to exit right after that, some 700 feet or so later, at Second Avenue. There’s a new exit ramp now that should make things a bit easier for motorists, and I’m sure the engineers would say, allow the highway to conform to modern highway design standards. Here’s some scant information:

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Hopefully they widen some of these designs and provide clearly designed, separated and adjacent walking and cycling paths at all these locations when they finally do get funding.

  • crazytrainmatt

    I’m as disappointed as anyone by the glacial progress but I think De Blasio deserves credit here for putting $250M towards some big gaps, even if some of that cost is shoring up the seawall which should really be allocated to the FDR. I doubt the modern west side sections cost as much due to the easier terrain.

    I look at the present announcement as a call for support for the east side path. The designs for the midtown sections where bike traffic will be heaviest clearly have separate bike and pedestrian paths like the west side greenway, so the big picture is right. The biggest open issues I see are the UN gap and the other existing mediocre sections, like that between 14th and 23rd adjacent to the overly generous FDR onramp.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The city lacks the cash” after the biggest economic boom here since the 1920s.

  • redbike

    North of the Triboro, the shoreline has been used as a staging area for replacement of the Third Av Bridge:

    “The contractor continues to demobilize from the work site….”

  • bggb

    Don’t forget the $4.5 Billion for biggest luxury mall in the world: Hudson Yards.

  • vnm

    Correct. They were using it as a staging area for the replacement of the Third Avenue Bridge (which I think was completed in 2004), then they were using it as a staging area for the replacement of the Willis Avenue Bridge, which was completed in 2016. Now they’re using it as a staging area for the Harlem River Drive Flyover Project. The Dept of City Planning’s Manhattan Waterfront Greenway section had this to say about the area about 10 years ago in an earlier report which has been removed: “After the DOT bridge reconstruction is complete, both DSNY and DOT have agreed to cede their land to the Department of Parks & Recreation, which will then turn it into a waterfront park, complete with greenway. DPR expects the Harlem River Park system to be complete by 2018.” It’s 2018 now and the City is now saying construction will begin in 2021. So, yeah, this is taking a while.

  • redbike

    Thanks for the follow-up and historic details.

  • I’m a regular at that 13th-15th bottleneck. IMO harrowing is an exaggeration. It is more of an annoyance than anything else, where everyone has to basically turn sideways and shimmy across like traversing the face of a cliff or something. I suppose there is always the potential for a vehicle-related catastrophe on the adjacent roadway. I am so accustomed to it all but yes, it is one of the worst pieces of infrastructure imaginable. I will probably break down in tears if they ever build a bridge there.

    As for the entire East greenway project, that is so disappointing. I get bummed out every time I pass through that whole UN area. An unbroken East River greenway running along the entire East side would very easily trump the Hudson greenway. What an albatross the United Nations is to us.

  • It looks like the sidewalk on the north side will be eliminated because theyre adding an off-ramp but I have found zero info on this