Volume 20, Number 36 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 19 - 25, 2011

Five years later, East River Park work almost done

By Aline Reynolds

Amid leftover snow and ice from the recent snowstorms, joggers and dog walkers on a recent weekday made their way up and down the East River Park’s new promenade, which is nearly fully complete.

Structural renovations to the park, which began in mid-2005, are slated for completion by early spring, according to John Natoli, chief engineer of the city’s Parks Department.

Workers are now finishing the final 600 feet of the new, 6,600-foot riverfront walkway, the key component of the construction project. Joggers, walkers and skateboarders will soon have use of the esplanade’s full length. The project’s landscaping will be completed by early summer, in time for the park’s peak-usage summer months.

The $84 million in refurbishments, funded by the city, involved replacing 65-year-old sewers and the concrete that made up the former walkway.

Redoing the promenade, a 2-mile stretch from 14th St. down to Cherry St., was the project’s most challenging aspect, Natoli said, since it required removal of the old walkway’s wooden piles and support structures and crumbling concrete slabs. The timber, which had limited strength, was used in abundance to uphold the old platform.

The crew built two embayment bridges — which will no doubt be popular with fishermen, though they are for use by all parkgoers — each with its own set of fluorescent lights. Each embayment bridge cost more than $1 million. Construction of the northern bridge, at E. Fourth St., was completed last May. The southern bridge, at Delancey St., will be finished by August.

Boulders are being used to replace the former timber piles in these areas, placed between the embayment bridges and the promenade to absorb the impact of the water’s waves.

“It was supposed to be just grass, but we found out it’d get destroyed in the storms,” Natoli said, of the decision to go with boulders.

To its west, the promenade is bordered by ball fields, playgrounds and tennis courts, which the Parks team spruced up by eliminating paving cracks and adding gravel, where appropriate, as well as fencing and lighting.

The Parks Department worked with the city’s Department of Environmental Conservation in making sure they created an esplanade that is environmentally friendly. The new platform is impervious to erosion, since the steel platform was constructed above the water’s high-tide levels, according to Mohamed Ayoub, administrative construction engineer for the Parks Department. And since it’s at a greater height than the old platform, Natoli explained, the new walkway also allows fish to swim underneath.

The park’s Fire Boat House, where Ayoub and his colleagues are based, also needed stabilization, “or it would have fallen into the river,” Natoli said. The Fire Boat House also is home to the Lower East Side Ecology Center.

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