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Feb. 21, 2013

NYC’s BlueWay Plan will Fortify East River Waterfront

By Keith Loria, Contributing Writer

New York—New York City is planning to build a new storm barrier along the East River as part of a complete revamping of a four-mile long waterfront featuring wetlands, pedestrian bridges, mini parks, a continuous bike/walk path and even a sandy beach.

The Blueway Plan is a concept design developed by studio-based planning and design firm WXY along with local officials, politicians, and community groups. It follows through on the commendable set of principles put forth in 2011 by the NYC Department of City Planning in the Vision 2020 Waterfront Plan.

“By delivering direct access to the East River waterfront, The Blueway will offer people new ways to travel along the river and experience a new natural edge,” Adam Lubinsky, WXY’s managing principal, tells MHN. “And by re-establishing saltwater marsh to Lower Manhattan, the East River Blueway will bring biodiversity back to the river’s edge and provide a natural buffer against storm surges.”

WXY’s vision includes raising the park road and replacing a long bulkhead at FDR Drive, the highway that cuts off much of the East River, with a protected wetlands and a new pedestrian bridge would welcome visitors and residents.

“There is a natural beach underneath the Brooklyn Bridge that would be made accessible, providing a fantastic new site for enjoying the river and views,” Lubinsky says. “The Blueway Plan proposes active places for recreation both at the Bridge and at Stuyvesant Cove, including boat launches and, eventually, wading pools that use filtered river water.”

The area—with its many Lower East Side high-rise multifamily residences, both public and private, and its institutional workplaces further north along the river—suffers from poor access to the East River. An active waterfront would create an extraordinary amenity for those living nearby.

According to Lubinsky, the key goals for the plan include achieving recreational opportunities at the water’s edge, access to the waterfront across barriers such as the FDR Drive, continuous connectivity along the river’s edge, and an improvement of the water and environmental quality so that people can freely boat, fish and even bathe their feet in the river water.

“We also want people to see the connection between the absorption of storm water (so that sewage doesn’t flow into the river) and the quality of their waterfront experience,” he says. “All of these goals need to be addressed in the context of a comprehensive resiliency strategy for the waterfront in terms of storm surge protection, storm water management and the future of the infrastructure in the area.”

The Manhattan Borough President’s Office has committed an initial $3.5 million in funding for the marsh creation.