Esplanade reconstruction underway

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Portions of riverfront walkway collapsed in May


  • A popular sledding hill near Gracie Mansion will be closed during reconstruction work on the nearby East River Esplanade. Photo: Michael Garofalo

Work has begun to repair a portion of the East River Esplanade between 88th and 90th Streets that collapsed into the river during a May rainstorm. The reconstruction of the damaged seawall, located in Carl Schurz Park behind Gracie Mansion, is one piece of a larger esplanade restoration project to repair and renovate various sections of the riverside pathway along the East Side.

Construction began July 10 and is expected to last until May of next year. Last week, the Parks Department held a groundbreaking with elected officials to mark the start of the $41 million project. “Through this funding, the existing esplanade will be enhanced, new sections will be created and several piers will be renovated and redeveloped,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose district includes the East Harlem riverfront, said at the groundbreaking.

City Council Member Ben Kallos, whose district includes Carl Schurz Park, said, “What we’re really talking about is redoing an entire esplanade from 60th Street all the way up to 96th Street and then up to 125th in just a few short years.”

The first phase of the sea wall reconstruction project includes the Carl Schurz Park site and sections of the esplanade near 114th, 117th and 125th Streets. The second phase, which will include other portions of the Upper East Side and East Harlem riverfront, is scheduled to begin in 2019.

Though much of Carl Schurz Park will remain open to the public during construction, a two-block area near the collapsed seawall behind Gracie Mansion has been fenced off as a safety precaution. Also closed, to the displeasure of some community members, is a nearby hill that is being used as an access area for construction equipment. The hill, located just north of the mayor’s residence, near 89th Street and East End Avenue, is a popular sledding destination in the winter months. Access to the slope will be blocked during repairs.

“We all love a good snow hill during those great New York City snow days and understand the community’s disappointment about not having access to it this coming winter,” Parks Department spokeswoman Crystal Howard wrote in an emailed statement. “The temporary utilization of this hill during sea wall reconstruction is all about safety — it was the best option for safe access to the esplanade during construction. This area will be completely restored and reopened to the public next year.”

Peggy Price, co-chairwoman of Community Board 8’s Parks Committee, said, “It is unfortunate that the hill has to be used, but the full board has affirmed its position that we need to get the repairs to the esplanade done at the earliest possible time. It seems to me that we need to make the esplanade repairs a priority given the dangerous conditions there currently.”

“We’ve been assured that it will be fully restored,” she added. “There was concern that the hill would be flattened but we’ve been told that that will not happen”

At its July 19 meeting, Community Board 8 voted to adopt two resolutions relating to the esplanade reconstruction work. Along with requesting monthly status reports on the construction work, the board asked that the Parks Department provide a pedestrian manager and crossing guards at the site, as well as conduct daily air quality monitoring and pause construction on any days on which samples do not meet air quality standards.

In April, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $100 million initiative to add eight blocks of waterfront paths to the East River Esplanade below East 61st Street.

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