Volume 74, Number 46 | March 23 - 29, 2005


East Side, West Side, waterfront needs funds, less garbage trucks

Wanting to replicate the success of Hudson River Park, the city is putting forward a major plan to upgrade the East Side waterfront from the Lower East Side to the Battery.

The plan includes a host of welcome improvements.

Pier 35 near Rutgers St. would be refurbished for strolling, sitting and fishing, while at Pier 42 at the south end of East River Park, the old pier shed would be removed to create grass lawns and sand beaches (though without water access).

An attractive riverfront esplanade would be built.

And there is a plan for 15 glassed-in pavilions to be used for everything from concessions to rehearsal spaces for arts groups to karate dojos. Helping make the F.D.R. less unsightly and grim, its underside would be spruced up with new cladding and lights.

There’s little not to like in this project. That the community has been involved in its planning through task force meetings and design workshops has made the process better and insured that what is being offered is something the community approves of and wants.

The plan’s latest modifications also have further brought it into line with what the community supports. Notably, the removal of apartment towers that would have been built over the F.D.R. near Wall St. comes as welcome news to Lower East Siders who feared they would accelerate gentrification. These towers would have generated revenue for the project, though wouldn’t have funded the full job.

The big question, however, is will the money be there? The cost of the East River revitalization plan is pegged at $150 million, up to $65 million of which would be just to build the esplanade. The city is hoping much of this money will come out of the remaining $800 million of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s post-9/11 rebuilding funds. The governor and mayor are expected to release a report sometime this spring outlining how the L.M.D.C.’s final funds will be spent.

The East River project is a truly valuable one that will improve the quality of life of Downtowners. This strip of waterfront has too long been neglected.

Similarly, we’re still hoping the L.M.D.C. will allocate $70 million for construction of the Hudson River Park’s Tribeca segment.

Finally, it was discouraging to hear at a recent Community Board 2 Waterfront Committee meeting that the Department of Sanitation doesn’t plan to vacate Gansevoort Peninsula until 2012, when a new garage in Chelsea will be built. Until then, D.O.S. plans to house garbage trucks from two to three Sanitation districts on the peninsula, meaning construction of a park there cannot occur in the meantime.

D.O.S. claims finding garage space in Manhattan is a complicated real estate “shell game.” Yet, that the department is now adding a new garage building to the peninsula for more trucks seems to violate the Hudson River Park Act.

Friends of Hudson River Park is preparing a lawsuit against this building, and we believe their case has merit. We understand it’s no easy task relocating these trucks, but we simply can’t wait eight or nine more years for the long-ago promised, and too often postponed, Gansevoort park. D.O.S. must do better.

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