Photos (c) Laura Mirviss
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled two blocks of the new East River Waterfront Esplanade in Lower Manhattan this afternoon, the first stretch of land completed in a $165 million project to revitalize two miles of City-owned shoreline property. The entire project—which will run from Battery Park to East River Park—is slated for completion in 2013. “Today’s announcement is just a taste of what is to come,” Bloomberg said.
The esplanade features a dog park, greenery, and numerous seating options, including wood benches, chaise lounges, stadium-style steps, and elevated bar stools. “We didn’t just want to put in park benches,” said Landscape Architect Ken Smith, who is working with SHoP Architects on the East River Waterfront revitalization project. “We thought about how people sit around a room.”
City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden said the promenade is designed to accommodate passersby of all sorts. “In order for an urban space to be a success, it has to have many uses,” Burden said. “You can go by yourself or with your friends, sit in the sun or shade, look at the city or the water.”
A section of elevated FDR Drive hangs above the esplanade, shading the concrete dog run underneath. Lights line the girders of the overpass, but they do not provide vertical spotlights onto the pedestrians below. Instead, they reflect against the painted girders, creating soft purplish ambient lighting and a moonlit effect. “The design embraces the existing infrastructure,” Burden said. “It is a park that is unapologetically urban, but beautiful and romantic.”
According to Smith, though the design of this initial section serves as a “kit” for future sections, other site-specific installations are in the works, including a light exercise area for the elderly and fishing pods. Pier 15, scheduled to open in the fall, is likely to be the next completed section of the esplanade. The 500-foot-long pier will feature a lawn, dock, and maritime education pavilion.
The two-block esplanade runs between Wall Street and Maiden Lane. It is open to the public from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m.