Redevelopment of the East River waterfront will stretch from Battery Park to East River Park
In early 2003, New York City laid the groundwork for an ambitious new effort designed to attract more New Yorkers to the East River waterfront, introducing residents as well as tourists to the sights and sounds of this historic area. Multiple city agencies and world-renowned architects joined the planning process, seeking to transform the waterfront "from something underperforming into something that New York would want," said Amanda Burden, chair of the NYC Department of City Planning.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation provided funding for a multi-phase study to inform the development process, and more than 50 teams from around the world responded to the city's request for design proposals. By fall 2003, the city -- specifically the Mayor's Office of Lower Manhattan Development, the Department of City Planning, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation -- selected an international design team to produce a comprehensive master plan for the redevelopment of the East River waterfront, stretching from Battery Park to East River Park.
The selected design team features architects from two firms who submitted a joint proposal. The first firm, Richard Rogers Partnership, is an international design and planning practice with offices in London, Barcelona, and Tokyo that has completed work on a host of acclaimed buildings, including London's Millennium Dome and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The second firm, SHoP Architects, has offices located on Lower Manhattan's Park Place and has worked on projects ranging from academic buildings to public art installations.
The team was tasked with creating a redevelopment plan that includes enhanced access to and along the water's edge -- an area that has played a critical role in the development of New York throughout the city's history but has been largely inaccessible and underused since the 20th century.
With efforts to transform the East River waterfront from a commercial shipping center to a recreational area well underway, and with numerous rebuilding efforts taking place elsewhere downtown, a terrific opportunity to reconsider the waterfront's design and function now exists.
"The city is turning back to the waterfront, to turn it into a public amenity," said Christopher Sharples, a partner at SHoP. "That's the goal."
To meet that goal, the designers from Richard Rogers and SHoP -- with funding from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development -- developed a draft of general redevelopment concepts for the East River project, including new waterfront uses and amenities and increased open space for New Yorkers and tourists alike.
The preliminary plans were presented at a series of public meetings, beginning with a June 2004 meeting hosted by Community Board 1. The purpose of the public sessions was not only to present the ideas to the community, but also to solicit community members' opinions and views.
"No waterfront project can be advanced without public input," said Robert Balder, director of the Mayor's Office of Lower Manhattan Development. "It's an opportunity to engage in detailed discussions not only about what our designers have done, but more importantly to hear from the community."
The master plan for the historic face-lift of the two-mile stretch of waterfront is expected to be finalized in early 2005, incorporating revisions based on public meetings and feedback.
In addition to the reconstruction plan for the waterfront as a whole, the city has also identified several short-term projects that could be completed quickly to provide better access to the shoreline to greater numbers of people. Projects under consideration, which could begin as soon as this year, include the removal of fences, refurbishment of parks, and perhaps even the addition of pavilions underneath the FDR Drive.
These types of immediate improvements, planners hope, could help the public glimpse the larger potential of waterfront redevelopment, garnering the support necessary to create more long-term changes that will continue to serve the area and the city as a whole 25 years from now.
"The riverfront can be another Central Park," said Michael Samuelian, senior urban designer at the Department of City Planning. "It could be a new center that unites Brooklyn, Manhattan, Governors Island, and all the neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan in the same way that Central Park unites the East Side and the West Side and brings people together.
Click here to view a slide show featuring the latest renderings of this project.
To view a slide show of East River Waterfront Study, Phase I, please click here.
To view a slide show of East River Waterfront Study, Phase II, please click here.
To view the latest public presentation of the East River Waterfront Study and the options considered for a new and improved esplanade and for redefined public spaces, please click here.
|This story also appears in the Looking Ahead section of our newly launched construction mini-website, www.lowermanhattan.info/construction. Here you'll find an interactive Visualization Tour that lets you view the latest designs and animations and access in-depth information about all of the major construction projects planned throughout the downtown area. And, for the very latest construction information, visit the Project Updates section, filled with alerts, road closings, detours, work schedules, and other construction news as provided by the city and state Departments of Transportation, the city Department of Design and Construction, and New York City Transit, as well as private developers.
Images courtesy of Richard Rogers Partnership and SHoP Architects for the City of New York.