Manhattan’s East River Park is expected to receive a massive facelift—and sooner than expected. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced an update to nearly 70 percent of the design for the long-awaited East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR). The new $1.45-billion-plan will not only speed up the construction process and shift heavy construction work away from residential areas and closer to the waterline, it will also improve access to East River Park while transforming it into a world-class parkland.
According to a press release, the purpose of the redesign is to allow flood protection to begin one year ahead of schedule. In addition, the entire project is now slated to be completed six months earlier than previously determined. By pushing back the flood walls from FDR Drive toward the East River along the water’s edge, there will be fewer barriers between East River Park and the local community, giving the 40-acre green space a more open and welcoming appearance. The flood walls will be directly integrated with the bulkhead and esplanade.
Plans are also underway to create a spacious entry plaza at Houston Street with a direct passageway to the water, where pedestrians can stumble upon views of the East River with ease. The new plan will also add 12 tennis courts, eight baseball fields, four basketball courts, three soccer fields, a multipurpose field, and a running track to Lower Manhattan’s largest park.
The ESCR is a $335-million proposal to construct flood barriers along the coast of Manhattan, from Midtown East to the Lower East Side. Bjarke Ingels Group and One Architecture & Urbanism conceived the idea in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2013. ESCR is only the first of three stages of Ingels’ vision for the Big U, which in total comprises a 10-mile-long flood barrier that doubles as public space, extending from West 57th Street to East 43rd Street, curving around the southern tip of the Financial District and Battery Park. The radical plan for flood-prevention will protect the most vulnerable, low-lying areas of Manhattan, while also providing residents with public spaces to relax, socialize, and sightsee.
Construction on ESCR is expected to begin in spring 2020.