New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

TAPinto East Siders Welcome Funding for Esplanade Repairs by Marc Bussanich

East Siders Welcome Funding for Esplanade Repairs

New York, NY—The East River Esplanade has received hundreds of millions of dollars to date for a combination of repair work and infrastructure upgrades. Today, at a press conference, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney announced that the Mayor and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation has committed to allocating an additional $284 million to address additional sinkholes that exist along the path, especially in East Harlem.

Rep. Maloney, who is a founder and co-chair of the East River Esplanade Task Force, started off the press conference by saying that the commitment by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Parks is so important, especially now during COVID because on the East Side there is less open space per capita than any community in all five boroughs.

“I have long championed open spaces for the East Side, Harlem and everywhere around our district. I’d love to see a green necklace all the way around the borough of Manhattan, and Queens and Brooklyn, all around our city. We have the glory of the water here, we should use it, we should beautify it,” said Maloney.

Although she wasn’t able to attend the press conference today, Councilwoman Diana Ayla (D), who represents East Harlem on the City Council, provided a breakdown of how the Department of Parks will allocate the $284 million to different stretches along the esplanade in East Harlem via Twitter. According to the councilwoman, the esplanade from 94th to 107th will receive $187 million, 118th to 124th will receive $69 million and Pier 107 will receive $28 million.

“This investment will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy the benefits of the waterfront, and a new pier,” said Ayala.

Following Rep. Maloney was Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez, who helped to secure an additional $7.4 million for the construction of the new Pier 107.

He noted that in 2015 he and his staff produced a report, The Tale of Two Rivers, which illustrated how New Yorkers on the West Side are able to enjoy a contiguous path from the Inwood neighborhood all the way south to Battery Park City, while on the East Side, New Yorkers can’t access 125th Street along the river because it is closed off.

“I felt like I was a squirrel, every year since 2015, putting a little of state money aside, either in the budget or through our personal allocation to get to the necessary amount for the pier, and I’m glad that I was able to start moving things along, along with the advocacy of everybody here,” Rodriguez.

Councilman Ben Kallos, who co-chairs the East River Esplanade Task Force with Rep. Maloney, said that since he’s been the co-chair, there has been approximately $872 million invested in the East River Esplanade going back to 2014 for repairs and infrastructure upgrades.

“At this point, we’re more than three-quarters of a billion in, some money is moving. Now the challenge is: start the work now,” said Kallos.  

After the elected officials spoke, members of the community board and civic organizations, who have been tirelessly working to make the case to elected officials and the city for investments to fix sinkholes and improve the infrastructure in East Harlem, discussed how the announcement by the city and Park is an investment in equity.

For example, Tricia Shimamura, who is the Community Board 8 First Vice Chair and the Parks and Waterfront Committee Co-Chair, said, “When you invest here, I can’t think of a better image of environmental justice, I can’t think of a better way of making an investment in our healthy communities and our wellness.”

Similarly, Jessica Ratner, Board Chair of the Friends of the East River Esplanade, said the announcement was a moment of a huge celebration for the organization.

“We were crying, most of us, with happiness when this announcement was made because this will be a sign of a more equitable waterfront,” said Ratner.

Saundrea I. Coleman, co-founder of the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition and Community Board 8 Social Justice Committee Co-Chair, is looking forward to the allocation from the city and Parks.

“The corrosion of the esplanade has been an eyesore for years. It is my hope that our treasured waterfront will never be subjected to this chronic neglect again. I am delighted to know that this revitalization is about to take place,” said Coleman.

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