A river runs through it—but unless there’s a hurricane warning, you would hardly know it. To get to the edge of the East River on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, you’ll have to negotiate a maze of highways, low-visibility bike lanes, hospital and tower blocks, and other obstacles—all so you can peer down at the water four feet below as it laps against a concrete bulkhead. Not that you’d want to dive in: between the combined sewer overflows, the runoff from the FDR Parkway, and 200 years’ accumulated industrial waste, the water is far from welcoming.
Bearing the exuberant slogan “River to the People,” the East River Blueway Plan aims to set all this to rights. The plan for a four-mile stretch of the East River puts climate resilience, ecosystem renewal, and recreational uses like kayaking and swimming on equal footing, notes Claire Weisz, principal in charge at WXY Architecture + Urban Design. In early February, Manhattan’s borough president, Scott Stringer, announced his support for the Blueway proposal and pledged $3.5 million in capital.