The City of New York has opened the first, second, and third phases of its ambitious project for improving the East River Waterfront Esplanade, a two-mile-long, City-owned public open space extending from the Battery Maritime Building to the south to Montgomery Street to the north.
The East River Waterfront Esplanade seeks to improve access to the waterfront, enhance pedestrian connectivity, and create waterfront amenities for public use and enjoyment. The existing esplanade is enhanced, new sections will be created, and several piers will be renovated and redeveloped.
This bold and ambitious plan will revitalize the Lower Manhattan waterfront that currently suffers from weak connections, a lack of amenities, and underutilization. The project aims to improve the quality of life for local residents, workers, and visitors alike.
The project has received critical acclaim and recognition in national and international award ceremonies, including the Excellence on the Waterfront Award from the Waterfront Center (2006), which recognizes high quality waterfront plans and projects from all over the world; the 55th Annual P/A Award granted to SHoP Architects (2008); and the Design Award from the NYC Public Design Commission to the project team for the Reconstruction of Pier 35 (2009).
East River Waterfront Esplanade Hours
|East River Waterfront Esplanade||6 am to Midnight|
|Pier 15 - Upper Deck||8 am to Dusk|
|Pier 15 - Lower Deck||6 am to Midnight|
Planning: A Team Effort
In 2004 as a result of the Mayor’s Vision for a 21st Century Lower Manhattan, NYCEDC, the Department of City Planning, Department of Transportation, and Department of Parks and Recreation, with funding from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, undertook a year-long study of the East River Waterfront Esplanade in Lower Manhattan. The design team included architects, urban designers, landscape architects, and engineers. All worked closely with the local community, area elected officials, City and State agencies, and civic associations to develop a waterfront concept plan.
Throughout the project's planning phases, the design and City teams committed to a participatory and interactive process, gathering and incorporating significant community input. These efforts included over 70 separate meetings with community boards, tenant associations, civic leaders, maritime experts and local elected officials. For recent community presentations and more information on waterfront development for lower Manhattan, please visit the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center website.
Key Features of the Esplanade
In response to input from various stakeholders, the East River Waterfront Esplanade plan features:
The project will showcase NYCEDC’s continued commitment to sustainability through a variety of initiatives regarding open space, air and water quality, energy, climate change, and congestion. For example, lighting will be upgraded to low-energy, long-life-cycle fixtures; recycled materials will be used for the project wherever feasible; regional, low maintenance plants will be used for landscaping; and rainwater harvesting of stormwater runoff will maintain the esplanade's various planted spaces.
The East River Waterfront Esplanade provides ample space throughout for the community to gather and host events. Such spaces include a maritime pavilion on Pier 15, two step-down lookouts across from Wall Street and Rutgers Slip, respectively, and plentiful seating for pedestrians along the entire walkway.
Active Recreational Space
In keeping with the long-term goals of the City, the East River Waterfront Esplanade project includes actively programmed space that the public can access year-round. Such features include two half basketball courts, a bocce/petanque area, a dog run, and an open, elevated exercise area with publicly accessible equipment.
The East River Waterfront Esplanade project will connect the Manhattan Greenway for pedestrians and cyclists alike. Along currently funded sections of the project, cyclists will enjoy two-way bike lanes fully separated from automobile and pedestrian traffic. In addition, these lanes will be lit 24-hours per day via the FDR above.
Moving the Project Forward
NYCEDC, working in conjunction with City partners, is currently implementing the East River Waterfront Esplanade, developed by the award-winning team of SHoP Architects, PC, Ken Smith Landscape Architects, and HDR/Arup engineers. Milestones include the completion of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, environmental review, and schematic designs in Fall 2007, as well as the groundbreaking of stage 1 of the first phase in 2008. For reasons of design, schedule, and cost, and as a result of the large project size, the ERWE project has been constructed in four separate phases.
In 2018, NYCEDC issued an RFP for a design consultant to design an additional section of the Waterfront Esplanade from Peck Slip to Catherine Slip, the Brooklyn Bridge Esplanade. Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners, LLC was selected as the prime consultant, with SHoP Architects, Arup engineers, and Moffat and Nichol Engineering on their team.
The first phase of the ERWE opened to the public in Summer 2011. Bounded by Wall Street and Maiden Lane, amenities include bar seating, lounge seating, plantings, a look-out, and a new dog run. Hours of operation are 6 am to midnight. Pier 15, a two-level, reconstructed waterfront pier opened to the public in late Fall 2011. The Pier offers expansive views of the East River and Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines. Pier 15 features an elevated lawn area, chaise lounge seating, and two separate look-outs. The pier's two distinct pavilion spaces and recreational boating berths were opened in 2013. Hours of Operation for Pier 15 are 6 am to midnight on the lower level and 8 am to dusk on the upper level.
Phase II of the project opened in May 2013 and extends from the Battery Maritime Building (at Broad Street) to Wall Street. This portion of the waterfront was formerly a narrow strip of land that is inhospitable to both pedestrians and cyclists. The ERWE project widened this section of the Esplanade and provides a separate bikeway and walkway to improve the north-south continuity of the Esplanade. this portion of the Esplanade also features planters and seating along this stretch of the Esplanade.
Phase III of the ERWE project extends from Pike/Allen to Pier 35, just north of the Manhattan Bridge. The first portion of this Esplanade was open in spring 2014. It includes nearly 1,000 linear feet of open space park, designed with the same features and seating as the rest of the Esplanade in addition to new active recreational uses like basketball courts, a petanque/bocce court, and an exercise area. Just north of this portion of the Esplanade is Pier 35—a destination pier with landscaped open space and an innovative ecohabitat restoration project called the EcoPark. The first phase of structural reconstructive work at Pier 35 was completed in January 2013. A portion of the pier was completed and opened to the public in December 2018. The remainder of the pier is anticipated to be completed in spring 2019. Additional esplanade improvements for Phase IV, which runs from Catherine Slip to Pike Slip, are anticipated to be completed in 2019.
As part of these efforts and in furtherance of the 2013 East River Blueway Plan (the "Blueway Plan") co-sponsored by the MBPO and the NYS Department of State - Division of Coastal Resources, EDC is advancing an additional section of the Waterfront Esplanade that is located at the Manhattan footing of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge Esplanade ("BBE"). The BBE is an approximately 1500 linear foot long part of the overall ERW and runs from approximately Peck Slip to Catherine Slip under the FDR along the waterfront.
This additional initiative complements the Concept Plan, the Blueway Plan, and the ERW Projects, and envisions the BBE as a place where the public can enjoy additional opportunities to engage the waterfront. CDBG funds from HUD are being made available to the City for the Project by LMDC as well as funding from the Manhattan Borough President's office and Council Member Margaret Chin.
The Manhattan Borough President hosted a meeting for the design consultants of the BBE to gain insight into community consensus and goals for this section of esplanade.
For immediate project updates, presentation materials, and more information about the project, please visit the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center on the LMDC website.
To view the May 2005 concept plan, explore the East River Waterfront Information at the Department of City Planning website.
For information on hosting an event at Pier 15 or the East River Waterfront Esplanade, please contact the Parks Department for further information.