UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — The plan to open the entirety of Manhattan's East River waterfront to residents is one step closer to completion following the opening of a new section of the East River Esplanade on the Upper East Side, local elected officials announced Wednesday.
City Councilman Ben Kallos, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney and Rockefeller University officials celebrated the opening of the East River Esplanade section running from East 63rd to 68th streets. The five-block section of the esplanade was renovated by the university for $15 million. Kallos hailed Rockefeller University for being the city's first private partner to fund esplanade improvements and said the school went "above and beyond" in its commitment to the project.
In addition to financing the $15 million renovation, Rockefeller University is creating an endowment to maintain the esplanade section and contributed $150,000 to the conservancy group Friends of the East River Esplanade, Kallos said.
"When I got elected the waterfront was crumbling, which is why I set a goal of involving local institutions in public-private partnerships to rehabilitate the East River Esplanade," Kallos said.
Funds for the esplanade renovation were secured during a deal between the city and Rockefeller University to allow the construction of a new 160,000-square-feet lab complex at the university's Upper East Side campus, city officials said. Mayor Bill de Blasio also allocated $35 million renovation in 2014.
Rockefeller University began renovating its stretch of the East River Esplanade in 2015 by repairing the eroding seawall that supports the esplanade between East 63rd and 68th streets. Following the structural repairs, work that began in 2016 included improving the area's landscape, building new seating and lighting, installing a bike lane and building a noise barrier dampen the sounds of traffic on the FDR Drive.
The new stretch of esplanade features irrigated planters and water fountains, bringing much-needed green space to the Upper East Side, Maloney said.
"We're seeing [the esplanade] coming back to life, it looks absolutely beautiful," Maloney said. "The east side is among the worst neighborhoods in terms of parkland, we are under-served in parkland. So the ability to revitalize and beautify our waterfront gives us this additional land for our people to enjoy."