City Agency Relents: Full East River Esplanade Project Moves Forward

East River Esplanade; rendering from 2013.
East River Esplanade; rendering from 2013.

The city bureaucracy works in mysterious ways.

Back in October, we reported that an edict from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had jeopardized a section of the East River Esplanade from Catherine Slip to Pike Slip. The agency planned to build a new water main and would not allow park construction to take place within 30 feet of the piping. The Economic Development Corp. (EDC), which is overseeing the esplanade project, said the decision was forcing it to scrap plans for a turf field.

Now DEP has had a change of heart. The news was delivered last night at a meeting of Community Board 3’s Parks Committee. Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, DEP’s director of community affairs, showed up to say his agency has “no objection” to the project going forward as designed. He also explained that plans to replace the water main have been abandoned, at least for now. There’s “no sign of any major problems there,” Abdul-Matin said. “It’s good for at least another 20-30 years.” He noted that the community board had been “diligent and persistent” in encouraging the agencies to work out their differences.

EDC officials said they will be eliminating some terraced seating along this stretch of the waterfront, a few tables and chairs and a skateboard area. The procurement process for this particular phase of the massive waterfront rehabilitation initiative will now begin, with the start of construction expected in the summer. Work is likely to take about one year.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron has been helping to resolve the impasse. Here’s the statement he provided to us:

When I heard the turf field was at risk, I worked with the community, DEP and EDC to identify a solution that ensured this much-needed, active recreation space on the Lower East Side gets built as committed. It’s great news that the turf field and other amenities in the East River Esplanade project will happen as promised. I’ll continue to push for this project to be completed quickly. Thanks to Community Board 3, DEP, and EDC for working towards the best possible build out of the East River Esplanade.

This next phase of construction includes completion of an eco-park at Pier 35, a part of the East River greenway that has been delayed for years. Hunter-Roberts Construction was hired earlier this year as the general contractor tasked with getting the project back on track.

EDC officials brief community board members last night.
EDC officials brief community board members last night.