Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg formally unveiled $150 Million plan for a 2 mile extension of perhaps the most spectacular urban walks in the country. It will also cover 350 feet of the Battery Tunnel to make it into a park.
The esplanade from Battery Park along the East River is a long overdue. It will connect it to a system of trails on the west side that goes along the Hudson to 181st Street passing through Hudson River Park (to 59th Street); Riverside South (to 72nd Street); Riverside Park (to 158th Street) to Fort Washington (181st Street). Further it extends to connect to the East Side Park system. Walks along the river had long been cut off by the FDR Highway. This proposal will create extensions into the river for the park.
Although I am personally a heavy user of the river park system and am thrilled to be able to now to go around the south tip of Manhattan and start up the East River, the $150 million is more money that is not going to Ground Zero when Ground Zero itself should at least be covered. The $150 million is fed money which the city and state via LMDC have been deciding what to do with. No Democratic senators appeared once again at the announcement by the Republican mayor.
Some questions have been raised about conflict of interst involving two LMDC board members who have interest in river development — Roland Betts (a Yalie, former Texas Ranger owner and friend of George W. Bush) who owns Chelsea Piers and former President and Chief Executive Officer of the Hudson River Park Trust Robert P. Balachandran The $150 million is the biggest expenditure outside of the core Ground Zero area.
The plan by any stretch is spectacular:
+ A new waterfront esplanade with new plantings, benches, tables, repaving, improved lighting and a widened bike path.
+ Reconstruction of Pier 15 for two levels of community open space and expanded programs for the South Street Seaport Museum.
+ Transformation of current Sanitation pier into a publicly accessible open space on the water.
+ Adaptive reuse of land under the FDR Drive for community, commercial and cultural programs in new pavilions along South Street.
+ New and expanded upland parks and open spaces in the historic slips which line South Street, including Peck Slip, Catherine Slip, Rutgers and Montgomery Streets, that will draw people to the waterfront.
+ Enhanced and expanded access into East River Park.
+ Design and engineering for a new public plaza in front of the historic Battery Maritime Building to improve the connection from the Battery to the East River. The project includes the extension of the Battery Park underpass 350 feet to the north in order to improve pedestrian safety.