New Look Outs give a more direct connection to the river
The first section of the new East River Waterfront opened July 14th, bringing a landscaped esplanade, seating and lounge chairs, game tables, and dog park to the downtown community. Part of a $165 million project, the segment is the first to revitalize a two-mile stretch of waterfront land from the tip of Lower Manhattan, to East River Park north of the Manhattan Bridge.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Steel, and a host of other officials joined the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which marked the official opening of the pilot section from Wall Street to Maiden Lane.
"The new East River Waterfront Esplanade is the newest jewel on New York City's magnificent harbor," said Bloomberg. "One of the goals of the waterfront plan we unveiled earlier this year is to reconnect New Yorkers to New York City's more than 500 miles of waterfront and make it part of their everyday lives, and the new esplanade will help do that for Lower Manhattans tens of thousands of residents, 300,000 plus workers and millions of visitors. When complete in full, the two-mile esplanade will extend the green space around Manhattans waterfront that includes Riverside Park, Hudson River Park on the West Side, Battery Park at Lower Manhattans tip, and East River Park on the East Side."
Conceived in 2002 as part of the mayor's Vision for Lower Manhattan, the new esplanade incorporates elements of waterfront plans developed by Community Boards 1 and 3, the Downtown Alliance, and others. The city Economic Development Corporation (EDC) led the construction in close consultation with the Department of City Planning, Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Transportation and other agencies, with funding from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. SHoP Architects created the esplanades modern design in collaboration with Ken Smith Landscape Architect and Tillotson Design Associates.
The new esplanade, open to the public from 6 a.m. to midnight, is now a place for residents, workers and visitors to Lower Manhattan to enjoy the eastern waterfront in a new way. One of the more striking differences is the "Look-Out," a series of stadium-like steps leading to the water at the foot of Wall Street -- where visitors can sit and observe the water with unobstructed harbor views.
Future sections currently under construction include additional portions of the esplanade from the Battery Maritime Building to Wall Street, a restaurant pavilion at Maiden Lane, a redeveloped Pier 15, and a restroom pavilion at John Street.
Pier 15, a 500-foot-long pier evocative of historical two-level piers, is expected to open infall 2011, featuring lawns for picnicking and sunbathing on the upper level, where users can enjoy the East River from an elevated perspective. The lower level will have an active dock, a maritime educational pavilion and a caf, as well as an abundance of seating opportunities and plantings. In addition to the five pavilions that are currently planned along the esplanade and on Pier 15, it is anticipated that the open space under the FDR will allow for temporary programs and events such as farmers' markets, performances, exhibitions and community gatherings.
Planning, design, and marine work are also well underway for esplanade improvements and Pier 35, which is expected to open to the public by 2013. Based on consultation with the community, that section will include amenities such as courts for basketball and petanque (a French game similar to bocce), low-impact exercise machines, seating, and another Look-Out between Rutgers Slip and Pike-Allen.
The esplanade is one of several projects to promote connectivity in Lower Manhattan. The Parks Department already is wrapping up work at Rutgers Slip, Catherine Slip, and Montgomery Slip, with Peck Slip redevelopment to come next year.
Upon completion of the larger project in 2013, the two-mile esplanade will provide a contiguous pedestrian walkway and a bicycle pathway along the East River from Battery Park to East River Park. It is part of the Waterfront Vision and Enhancement Strategy, a sustainable blueprint for New York City's waterfront and waterways launched by Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn in May 2011.
"This project is the perfect example of how a coordinated inter-agency plan, developed in conjunction with elected officials and community members, can transform neighborhoods, connecting them with our natural resources," said EDC President Seth Pinsky. "Today's opening will complement a number of other projects already underway, including the recently-launched East River Ferry, allowing residents and visitors to further explore the waterfront, while simultaneously generating jobs for the people of Lower Manhattan and the city as a whole."