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A Vision for the East Side Waterfront is Unveiled

east river waterfront park original - front

A group of six leading landscape architects united for a day of brainstorming and collaborative synergy in early June to develop a bold vision for Midtown’s inaccessible East River waterfront, and three days later they presented the resulting concepts and images to a crowd of more than 200 interested New Yorkers. The intensive day-long design workshop, known as a charrette, was organized by the MAS, City Council member Dan Garodnick and Manhattan’s Community Board 6.

east river waterfront park redesign - front

By realigning and lowering the 42nd Street exit ramp off FDR Drive, the architects hit upon the concept of elevating the people, not the traffic, said Frank E. Sanchis, III, MAS senior vice president. They proposed a grand urban terrace above the FDR overlooking the river from 38th Street to 42nd Street. They also proposed a forested hill; surrounding a existing ventilation shaft at 42nd Street and proposed creating a glowing six-story pylon which would anchor a ferry terminal, restaurant and vertical public space, and provide a means to descend to the river.

con-ed plot, east river waterfront new york

The landscape architects included Ken Smith, designer of the rooftop garden at the Museum of Modern Art and the elevated plaza at 55 Water Street; Ricardo Scofidio, designer of the High Line and the redevelopment of Lincoln Center; Matthew Urbanski, designer of Brooklyn Bridge Park; Margie Ruddick, designer of improvements to Queens Plaza and a master plan for downtown Trenton; Kate Orff, a principal at SCAPE Studio and a protege of Rem Koolhaas; and Brian Jencek, a principal at Hargreaves Associates.

east river waterfront park rendering new york urban design

The charrette was organized because Manhattan has a rare opportunity to open up public access to Midtown’s East River waterfront, create a new park and complete a greenway connecting the Battery to Harlem. The state is planning to rebuild the midtown section of FDR Drive, the former Con Ed power plant site is being redeveloped, and the city is planning to facilitate the expansion of the United Nations campus and create an adjacent waterfront esplanade. The charrette explored how the projects could be planned together and result in an open waterfront from 34th Street to 63rd Street.

Representatives from the state’s Department of Transportation, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation and East River Realty Company, LLC; the developer of the former Con Ed site — participated in the charrette briefing.

Elected officials who attended the unveiling included Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, state Senators Liz Krueger and Thomas Duane, state Assembly members Jonathan Bing, Brian Kavanaugh and Micah Kellner, and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn.

Download the briefing book MAS prepared for the charrette participants. It provides a summary of the germane issues and the neighborhood context.