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Projects & Proposals > Manhattan > East River Waterfront Printer Friendly Version
East River Waterfront Study

The East River Waterfront Esplanade and Piers Project was a critical component of the Mayor’s 2002 Vision for Lower Manhattan. The proposed design takes a systematic approach to revitalizing an area once overflowing with waterfront activity by (1) focusing on connecting the city to the water’s edge, (2) creating continuity in the Manhattan Greenway, and (3) activating the waterfront year round by providing new cultural, community, commercial and recreation activities.

In late 2006, SHoP Architects and Ken Smith Landscape Architects were retained by EDC to develop detailed landscaping, seating, railing and pier designs for the East River Waterfront Esplanade. Together with their engineering consultants, Daniel Frankfurt and Ove Arup, and the ERW construction manager, Carter Burgess, they are laying the groundwork for implementation of the new park. Working with the City team of NYC Economic Development Corporation, the Department of City Planning, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Transportation, and the Office of Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding, the design and engineering team is moving forward with detailed design and engineering, soliciting community input, and seeking the necessary federal, state, and city approvals.

In mid-2004, the Department of City Planning, in conjunction with the Economic Development Corporation, embarked on the one-year study in mid-2004. Below is an overview of the complete Concept Plan which resulted in the document, “Transforming the East River Waterfront,” and

Overview of the Concept Plan
This planning and urban design study proposes short-term improvements and long-term strategies to reconnect Lower Manhattan's diverse communities to a two-mile stretch of East River waterfront. The study area, extending from the Battery to the southern edge of East River Park, straddles two community districts (districts 1 and 3) and forms a link between the financial district, the South Street Seaport, Chinatown and the Lower East Side. In May of 2005, the revitalization of the East River Waterfront, guided by this study, received $150 million of federal funding administered by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

East River Waterfront Study Area from Battery Park to East River Park
East River Waterfront Study Area from Battery Park to East River Park

"Transforming the East River Waterfront" summarizes the study and documents the process leading to identifying the elements for a new and improved waterfront and public spaces for the East River in Lower Manhattan.

Full Report Sections
PDF Document Full Report (11 mb) PDF Document Section 1 - Introduction (0.8 mb)
PDF Document Section 2 - Study Area (1.3 mb)
PDF Document Section 3 - Foundation Projects (3.1 mb)
PDF Document Section 4 - Esplanade Projects (0.8 mb)
PDF Document Section 5 - Pier Projects (0.8 mb)
PDF Document Section 6 - Slip Projects (1.9 mb)
PDF Document Section 7 - Gateway Projects (1.5 mb)

The East River waterfront has developed over the past 350 years as a central place in the city's maritime history. The city began here, and as it grew and developed, the island expanded into the river. As population expanded, the city promoted the infill of waterfront lots to serve the growing demand for land in Lower Manhattan. As a result, the current shoreline is more than three city blocks from the original shore. The present location of Pearl Street is in fact the original East River shoreline of Lower Manhattan. As the city's position as the premier port for trade on the east coast grew, so did the need for new piers to service the vessels coming and going out of the port. At its peak in the 1950's there were over 40 piers along this two-mile stretch of waterfront; today there are fewer than 10 remaining.

With the decline in maritime activity over the past 40 years, various master plans have been developed for this waterfront. The Water Street Access Plan in the 1970's envisioned Water Street as a commercial spine for modern office buildings and the expansion of the financial core. In the 1980's, the plan for East River Landing, inspired by Battery Park City, proposed new office development on the waterfront south of Fulton Street. In the 1990's, a new outpost for the Guggenheim Museum was proposed on the waterfront at the present location of piers 13 and 14 at the foot of Wall Street. Aside from some components of the Water Street Access Plan, none of these waterfront schemes have been realized to date.

The study seeks to enhance access to the waterfront, create new active and passive recreational opportunities, complete missing links in the Manhattan greenway, and provide a planning framework that sustains growth. To achieve these goals, the plan addresses a number of urban design challenges that include blocked access to the waterfront, underutilized waterfront, and the lack of amenities for public use and enjoyment of the shoreline.

Contact Information
For further information about the study, please contact the Manhattan Office, Department of City Planning, (212) 720-3480.

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