Ribbon Cut on $15 Million in Repairs to the East River Esplanade Resulting from Public/Private Partnership with Rockefeller University
(New York, NY) — Today the Rockefeller University cut the ribbon on a public/private partnership that repaired and refurbished, a crumbling seawall and dilapidated stretch of the East River Esplanade. The ribbon cutting ceremony took place near East 63rd Street and was led by East River Esplanade Taskforce Co-Chairs Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) and New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, Manhattan Parks Borough Commissioner William Castro and Rockefeller University Executive Vice President Timothy O’Connor.
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The first phase of the project began in 2015 with the rehabilitation of the seawall that supports the esplanade between 63rd and 68th Streets. Some of the work completed included repairing eroded joints between the blocks, replacing damaged, displaced, and missing blocks, and repairing eroded concrete. The renovations to the East River Esplanade that began in 2016 after the repair work included: improving landscaping, adding new seating and lighting, creating a designated bike lane, and constructing a noise barrier along the FDR Drive to reduce traffic sound. This section of the park will also have an endowment to fund landscaping for the park in perpetuity.
“We are thrilled to contribute this newly upgraded segment of the esplanade to the neighborhood,” said Rockefeller University President Richard Lifton. “Its design was truly a team effort, and included input from Council Member Kallos, members of Community Board 8, and many other stakeholders. I want to thank them for the collaborative and constructive way in which they approached this work. As Upper East Side neighbors ourselves, the Rockefeller community looks forward to many years of walking, jogging, and biking along this path, as well as just enjoying the view of the river.”
“I am so proud of the collaborative public/private partnership with Rockefeller University that has resulted in the completion of this newly repaired segment of the East Side Esplanade. As Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade Taskforce, I am thrilled with the gorgeous landscaping of this portion of the Esplanade. It gives us a glimpse of how the entire esplanade should look. I want to congratulate Councilman Ben Kallos for working with Rockefeller University to ensure that they made a real and ongoing commitment to the Esplanade, and to thank Rockefeller University for doing such a spectacular job,” said Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney, Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade Taskforce.
“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. Rockefeller University set the precedent as the first investment of $15 million that has been joined by more than $200 million over the past five years,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade. “Thank you also to Congress Member and Co-chair of the East River Esplanade Carolyn Maloney for her leadership. As we cut the ribbon on this multi-million dollar renovation and repair done by Rockefeller, we must thank University President Richard Lifton for his commitment and that of his great institution.”
“Thanks to Council Member Kallos’ persistent advocacy and Rockefeller University’s partnership, an important part of our infrastructure and recreational space has been significantly improved — making it much more welcoming for Upper East Siders and all who visit the East River Esplanade,” said Manhattan Parks Commissioner William Castro. “This work complements the commitment made by the City in recent years to restore and preserve the Esplanade between E. 60th and E. 125th Streets as an asset for this community and the city as a whole.”
The public/private partnership to improve the East River Esplanade emerged with Council Member Ben Kallos and Mayor Bill de Blasio during conversations around city approval for Rockefeller’s $500 million laboratory building, a construction project that is adding 160,000 square feet of modern, modular lab space to replace aging facilities. The building, named the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Research Building, will be the centerpiece of the new Stavros Niarchos Foundation–David Rockefeller River Campus. The University spent approximately $15 million on seawall repairs and esplanade improvements, and committed to maintain the landscaping of this section of the esplanade in perpetuity. At the request of Council Member Ben Kallos the investment by Rockefeller University was then matched by Mayor de Blasio with an initial $35 million dollar investment in 2014.
The Rockefeller University also made a $150,000 gift to Friends of the East River Esplanade, a grass-roots conservancy dedicated to the restoration and renovation of the esplanade from 60th to 120th Streets.
The Rockefeller University began the approval process to build the new laboratory building in 2012. The Community Board approved the project on January 9, 2014; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer approved the project on February 12, 2014; and the City Planning Commission approved the project on April 2, 2014. Following these approvals, Council Member Kallos raised key community concerns leading to this public/private partnership memorialized in a letter to him from Rockefeller University, approval by the City Council, and improvements to the Esplanade that will serve the community in perpetuity.
Throughout the planning phases of the project, Rockefeller worked in conjunction with its neighbors and local government officials, including Council Member Ben Kallos, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Community Board 8, and representatives from the Parks Department, in a collaborative process designed to ensure the public enhancements meet the needs of the community.
The ribbon cutting was also attended by Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, a representative for Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Community Board 8 Manhattan, Friends of the East River Esplanade, Green Park Gardeners, New Yorkers for Parks, and East Sixties Neighborhood Association. Actual completion of renovations to this section of the Esplanade were completed in the fall of 2018 but the ribbon cutting was delayed to scheduling conflicts.
“New Yorkers deserve an East River Esplanade that is as vibrant as it is accessible,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I thank Rockefeller University, Congresswoman Maloney, and Councilmember Kallos for their efforts in making the esplanade a more well-designed public space for all residents to enjoy. I’m happy to see the repairs begin and I look forward to engaging the community as these projects advance.”
“Open space is a precious commodity on the East Side. Improving the opportunities for East Siders to enjoy fresh air and connect with our waterfront is vital to the quality of life of our neighborhoods. I thank Council Member Kallos, Rockefeller University, and all of their partners for this important contribution to our Esplanade.” said Senator Liz Krueger.
“I applaud Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Council Member Ben Kallos and Rockefeller University President Richard Lifton for their leadership on this public/private partnership, making a crucial investment to repair and renovate our East Side waterfront. With this funding, we are quickly closing the loop of our waterfront and our neighbors will continue to enjoy the East River Esplanade, a true gem of our community,” said Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright.
"Community Board 8 thanks Rockefeller University, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Liz Krueger, Council Member Ben Kallos, Friends of the East River Esplanade, and the other groups, including members of CB8, who have worked hard to enhance and repair the Esplanade,” said Alida Camp, Chair of Community Board 8. "Manhattan is an island, but we can forget how beautiful it is to walk, run, bike or sit beside the East River. With the generosity of Rockefeller University and the dedication of our elected officials and community groups, we have a greatly improved opportunity to enjoy the river. Why should the west side have all the fun?"
“Esplanade Friends is thrilled with The Rockefeller University’s beautiful new section of the waterfront. Thank you, Thank You Rockefeller! Runners, cyclists, strollers and kids (in strollers!) will be enjoying the area for years to come. Our only wish is that the City and other public-private creative partnerships continue the reimagining of the waterfront further north so that all can enjoy a continuous path along the East River,” said Jennifer Ratner, Founding President of Friends of the East River Esplanade.
“Today we salute the renewed community spirit that has brought us to this special day in the life of the East River Esplanade. The private/public partnership joining The Rockefeller University and the NY City Parks Department will bring new vitality to this essential recreation destination on the Upper East Side. We are grateful to the leadership of Congress Member Carolyn Maloney and Council Member Ben Kallos for their unflagging dedication to enhancing the open public space in our community,” said Judy Schneider, Founding President of the East Sixties Neighborhood Association.
About The Rockefeller University
The Rockefeller University is the world's leading biomedical research university and is dedicated to conducting innovative, high-quality research to improve the understanding of life for the benefit of humanity. Its 82 laboratories conduct research in neuroscience, immunology, biochemistry, genomics, and many other areas, and a community of 1,800 faculty, students, postdocs, technicians, clinicians, and administrative personnel work on its 16-acre Manhattan campus. Rockefeller’s unique approach to science has led to some of the world's most revolutionary and transformative contributions to biology and medicine. During Rockefeller's 118-year history, 25 Rockefeller scientists have won Nobel Prizes, 23 have won Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards, and 20 have garnered the National Medal of Science, the highest science award given by the United States.