August 2017
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Update on the East River Waterfront

east river waterfront park rendering new york urban design

For most of the last century, Midtown East has been cut off from its waterfront and starved of open space, but now the stars are aligned to address this. The future of three major projects – the redevelopment of the former Con Ed site, the rebuilding of the FDR Drive and the potential UN campus expansion – is in the balance, and, if planned together, these projects could be designed to create a glorious waterfront park between 38th and 42nd streets that descends to the East River.

To explore what this park could look like, the Municipal Art Society, Manhattan Community Board 6 and Council Member Dan Garodnick convened six of the world’s leading landscape architects – including Ken Smith, designer of the MOMA roof garden and Ricardo Scofidio, designer of the High Line — for a day-long “charrette” (an intense design workshop) last June.

Shortly, the City Planning Commission and the City Council will be voting on whether to approve the development plan for the former Con Ed site proposed by the developer East River Realty. MAS believes that this plan must accommodate the potential creation of a waterfront park over the FDR, and that city and state officials should begin planning accordingly. We must take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reconnect Midtown East with the East River.

The writer is senior policy analyst.