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December 2013 | Grants Newsletter

A New East Side Esplanade

(Above) A sinkhole on the East River waterfront; (Below) Rendering by Gerard Cadger and Xenia Semeniuk (right) entered into the “Reimagining the Waterfront” competition.

An esplanade shouldn’t be an obstacle course. But with a three-mile series of sinkholes, broken piers, and hard-to find entrances, the East River waterfront from 125th to 60th Street sometimes feels more stressful than serene.

“Roped-off hazards make piers unusable, while potential gardening spots are fallow because there’s no irrigation,” says Lauren O’Toole, interim executive director of Civitas, a planning group working to improve life on Manhattan’s East Side. With the City’s eyes on the waterfront in the wake of superstorm Sandy, a $55,000 Trust grant will help Civitas bring Upper East Side and East Harlem residents together to plan for an upgrade of the esplanade.

A recent Civitas competition challenged architects and planners to envision a welcoming space for bikers, walkers, gardeners, kayakers, local workers, and families. It received more than 90 submissions from 24 countries. The Trust grant supports community events featuring an exhibition of these renderings and organizing residents to help plan and advocate for a new esplanade.

“The next twenty years are going to be awesome for this City,” says Sharon Pope, Civitas board member and urbanist. “With Brooklyn Bridge Park, Governors Island, and Hudson River Park to look to, it’s a wonderful time to be involved in the waterfront.”

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