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East River Waterfront Esplanade & Piers

In 2003, the Mayor's Office, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), the Department of City Planning (DCP), and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) began the East River Waterfront project. After completing a one-year study on the area, DCP and NYCEDC released the Concept Plan for the project in 2005. The plan details a series of short-term projects and long-term strategies that aim to reconnect the Financial District, the South Street Seaport, Chinatown and the Lower East Side neighborhoods to the East River waterfront. Improvements will include enhanced public access to the water, new amenities and uses, and increased open spaces for visitors along a two-mile stretch of the East River waterfront (from Battery Park to East River Park). The projects, which are to be funded by $150 million of federal money administered by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, are slated to be completed in segments between 2010 and 2015.

On February 26, 2007, the city’s public review process began when the City Planning Commission (CPC) certified the ULURP application for site selection and disposition of city property, actions deemed necessary to implement the waterfront plans. The planning process has not been without controversy, with local Community Boards voicing concern over the disposition of land and provision of adequate park space.

SHoP Architects and Ken Smith Landscape Architects – who were involved in the development of the concept plan – have been retained by NYCEDC to work on detailed designs for the esplanade and piers project. After mixed reviews to their initial plans for Pier 15, a revised plan was approved by Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee on July 24, 2008.

In the summer of 2008, the Olafur Eliasson-designed New York City Waterfalls public art project was installed along the East River waterfront. The project was paid for by $15 million in public funds and private donations and was credited with bringing in a large amount of tourist revenue.

In April 2009, the EDC released a request for ideas and expressions for the first of many planned pavilions along the River. The first pavilion will be located near the South Street Seaport. Funding for the project is expected to be provided mainly through a federal community block grant administered by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation with some additional funding from the Federal Highway Administration. The solicitation for input came nearly seven years after Mayor Bloomberg first announced plans to develop the East River waterfront in Lower Manhattan.

Officials broke ground on Phase One of the project in August 2009.

Last Updated: September 9, 2009

This development is closely interlinked with:
Lower Manhattan Development
South Street Seaport Redevelopment