Justin Davidson on the East River Esplanade


For years now the city has been fixing up segments of the East River waterfront, south from Stuyvesant Cove all the way to Battery Park, where eventually a continuous bike path and recreational space will connect to create a loop around the entire island of Manhattan. Already East River Park along the Lower East Side and East Village has a near-complete broad boulevard along the water, away from the noisy FDR. And just this summer, the city — with the help of SHoP architects — opened another section, a stretch of bike paths and public spaces from the Battery Maritime Building up to the South Street Seaport. Called the East River Esplanade, it includes trees, pleasant benches, “get-downs” where pedestrians can step safely down to water level, and even a dog run. “It’s really symbolic of the transition of this part of the city from a place of work to a place where people live,” New York architecture critic Justin Davidson explains. “They need spaces for leisure.” It’s not the quietest public park or space in the city (portions are actually under the FDR), but it is, as City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden describes, “unapologetically urban.” The city plans to continue renovating the piers and adding public space along the river until the year 2020.