EAST HARLEM, NY — Responding to years of pressure by neighborhood leaders, the city will commit $284 million toward rehabilitating the East River Esplanade in East Harlem, officials announced Thursday.
According to City Councilmember Diana Ayala, the funding will pay for repairs along the waterfront between 94th and 107th streets and 118th to 124th streets, as well as the complete reconstruction of Pier 107, which has been fenced off since 2018 due to safety concerns.
"It's certainly about time," said Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez, who has argued that East Harlem's waterfront has been allowed to decay while the neighboring Upper East Side sees more consistent upkeep.
"We can start to really invest in the Esplanade and make it fair and accessible to everybody on the East Side."
Last week, Patch reported on the Esplanade's continued deterioration in East Harlem, even after multimillion-dollar repair commitments by the city and state. A three-block stretch between 114th and 117th streets is completely closed, and other stretches are riddled with holes and partial collapses.
The new round of funding was announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration as part of his final State of the City address. It comes on top of more than $327 million that his administration has already invested in the East River Esplanade.
The city provided no timeline for when the new repairs would begin. First, the $284 million allocation must be approved by the City Council when it passes the city's 2022 budget in June.
"Once that's there, we can talk about doing the work," Rodriguez said.
Several past rounds of Esplanade repairs were supposed to be split between the Upper East Side and East Harlem, including a $35 million commitment from the city in 2014 and $75 million in 2019. But those repairs have been carried out unevenly, said City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side.
"I'm troubled by the fact that the work that was funded on the [Upper] East Side has already been completed, and much of the work that was funded over the last seven years for East Harlem still hasn't started," Kallos said Thursday.
According to Ayala, the $284 million will be distributed as follows:
- Repairs between 94th and 107th streets: $187 million
- Repairs between 118th and 124th streets: $69 million
- Reconstruction of Pier 107: $28 million
More than $9 million in state funds secured by Rodriguez and State Sen. José M. Serrano will also go toward the new pier.
The funding does not include resiliency measures to protect East Harlem from rising sea levels, but the city's resiliency guidelines will inform the repairs, Parks Department spokesperson Crystal Howard said.
Residents of East Harlem will get the chance to weigh in on the project before it begins, Howard added.
"We're thrilled that Mayor de Blasio has allocated these funds in the preliminary budget for critical work along the East River Esplanade in the East Harlem area," Howard said.
"A major equity investment, this project will rehabilitate the esplanade in East Harlem and ensure that the community can enjoy this waterfront resource for decades to come."