After years of lobbying, the city says it is prepared to spend $300 million on renovation of piers and walkways and a new children’s park on the East River Esplanade surrounding Pier 107.
Local activists have been pushing for a major renovation for the area surrounding pier 107 for years but now city officials say it may move slightly north to 112th St.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful space, but right now there’s no bathroom and it’s crumbling,” says Jennifer Ratner, Board Chair of Friends of the East River Esplanade. “There are lots of [people] who use it in spite of that, because it’s beautiful. It should have a lot of the amenities that waterfronts...around all five boroughs have.”
City Seeks Public Input
“They are looking for community input on whether the pier should be located at 107th or 112 St,” said Jean Kim, executive director of Friends of the East River Esplanade. She said input can be sent directly to Tara Das, at the city’s Economic Development Corporation at: firstname.lastname@example.org
With money in the budget, community interest is running high. Sixty three people including Manhattan Parks Commissioner Anthony Perez, City Councilmember Diana Ayala, the environmental and open space committee of Community Board 11, Friends of the East River Esplanade board members and representatives from Stan Tec Consultants all tuned into the “visioning session” on Jan. 25 called by Community Board 11.
Pier 107 was once a vibrant pier on the waterfront in an era when New York Harbor was the nation’s leading port. By the time the FDR Drive was built in the mid-1930s to connect to the Triborough (now RFK) Bridge, the pier was no longer an active berth for ships and was reconstructed for recreational use. But the ravages of the East River took its toll. While some of the crumbling pier was renovated in the early 1990s, it unfortunately fell into disrepair again in recent years.
“Pier 107 is very important to the East Harlem community, [to] the East Side, and it’s very exciting to see [the project] progressing,” said Manhattan Parks commissioner Perez as activists viewed a power point presentation by Marvel Architects.
The Bobby Wagner Walk that encompasses the pier 107 area stretches from 90th St. up to 120th St. and is part of the larger 32 Manhattan Waterfront Greenway that circles the borough. But the East Side has always played second fiddle to the West Side when it comes to the waterfront esplanade. The West Side has virtually uninterrupted bike and walking paths from northern Manhattan to the Staten Island Ferry area. The East Side still has areas that are not connected or where bikers must dismount and walk up steep stairways such as in the Sutton Place neighborhood.
Basic suggestions for the pier 107 (or 112 redevelopment) include a comfort station/bathroom and potable water as well as greenery and open space parks for children to play and new links for greater public access to the surrounding communities. In addition, Friends of the East River Esplanade hopes to support local anglers who use the area for fishing.
“[We’re looking to develop] things that are pretty much standard at waterfronts, things that connect to the community of East Harlem and El Barrio, things that surprise and delight people...and basically activate the space in a really creative way,” said Ratner. “We are literally thrilled that, after all our screaming and shouting, [the project] keeps getting step by step closer to reinvention and being reimagined,” Ratner concludes
“We are literally thrilled that, after all our screaming and shouting [the rebuilding project] keeps getting step by step closer to reinvention and being re-imagined.” Jennifer Ratner, board chair of the Friends of the East River Esplanade