The East Midtown Waterfront Project will fill a major gap in the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway between East 38th and East 60th Streets along the East River while providing much-desired waterfront access and public open space resources for the communities of East Midtown and the public at large.
NYCEDC, working in partnership with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, the NYC Department of Transportation, elected officials, and local communities, is engaged in planning for the East Midtown Waterfront Project to improve access to the East River, enhance bicycle and pedestrian connectivity, and create waterfront amenities for public use and enjoyment in accordance with Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan and OneNYC. The new waterfront esplanade would stretch for twenty-two blocks and fill a major gap in the thirty-two-mile Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. Following State enabling legislation signed by Governor Cuomo in July 2011, the City, and State executed a Memorandum of Understanding in October 2011 creating the framework for the United Nations to expand its New York City campus while creating funding sources for the East Midtown Waterfront Project.The Memorandum of Understanding was amended in 2015 to extend the completion date and to include other minor changes.
The MOU allows for a portion of Robert Moses Playground along First Avenue between East 41st and 42nd Streets to be de-mapped and conveyed to the United Nations Development Corporation (UNDC), a New York State public benefit corporation created in 1968 to assist the United Nations community with its office space and other real estate needs, for the for the construction of a new office building known as the UN Consolidation Building. Conditions to this disposition include:
- UNDC provides an initial contribution of $3 million to the Eastside Greenway and Park (EGAP) Fund for the planning and concept design for the East Midtown Waterfront Esplanade and other open space improvements.
- An additional contribution of $70 million from UNDC to the EGAP Fund will be made available concurrent with conveyance of a portion of Robert Moses Playground to UNDC for the final design and construction of the ODR Esplanade.
- In the future, additional funding for the Project is expected to become available for the final design and construction of the ODR esplanade from the disposition or refinancing of UN Plaza Buildings 1 and 2, publicly-owned buildings where the UN currently leases office space.
As required by the State legislation and the MOU, Asser Levy Place, a former street bed between East 23rd and 25th Streets near the FDR Drive and adjacent to Asser Levy Playground and Recreation Center, has been closed to vehicular traffic, de-mapped as a street, and mapped as parkland to serve as replacement parkland for the portion of Robert Moses Playground disposed to UNDC. The Parks Department completed improvements to the former street in November 2014, programming it for active recreation, and the space was opened to the public in December 2014.
Key Esplanade Features
The East Midtown Waterfront Project will consist of three sections served by a number of potential upland connections:
- East 38th- 41st Streets/Waterside Pier: An existing City-owned structure formerly used by Con Edison for fuel deliveries to the adjacent Waterside steam plant (since demolished) and later for parking. Construction began in 2014 and the pier is expected to be open to the public by the end of 2015.
- East 41st- 53rd Streets/the UN Esplanade: This middle section of the Esplanade would pass by the UN campus.
- East 53rd- 60th Streets/the ODR Esplanade: This northern section of the Esplanade may make use of existing in-water caisson structures that supported the Outboard Detour Roadway (ODR) during the recent reconstruction of the FDR Drive.
- Upland connections: To be explored, including improvements at the current East 37th Street entrance to Glick Park and at East 60th Street, where the Esplanade would connect to Andrew Haswell Green Park.
In order to gather public input that will inform the first stage of design for the future esplanade, the City team and the EGAP Board have invited a range of neighborhood groups and Citywide stakeholders to join a community working group.
The first meeting of the community working group was held in May 2012 and focused on articulating specific goals and priorities for the esplanade design.
The second community working group meeting was held in June 2013 and focused on getting feedback on pre-concept designs and potential programming.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the lead agency for environmental review of the UN and ODR Esplanade, issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the project on February 2, 2016.