The East River Waterfront Esplanade Begins Its Final Phase

Just in time for the construction of several new high rises, the East River Waterfront Esplanade begins its final Phase 4.

By Jeff Vasishta January 18, 2017

There was a time when a jog along the Manhattan side of the East River was only for the truly hardened (or insane). Above 23rd Street was the infernal din and exhaust fumes of the FDR. Further south was an urban obstacle course of overpasses, homeless tents, and graffiti-covered basketball courts. Light danced off the paisley swirls of oil and pollution in the river on one side. On the other was the shadow of hulking apartment buildings of Alphabet City and The Lower East Side.

Oh, the good old days! That was long before 2004. Then Mayor Michael Bloomberg dreamed up the East River Waterfront Esplanade—miles of tree-lined walkways, piers, and tranquil parks. Just the word “esplanade” in conjunction with the East River waterfront seemed, at the time, like a outrageous oxymoron.

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Over the last six years, sections of the waterfront have been transformed. Now the latest stretch—Phase 4—which falls between Catherine Slip and Pike Slip is scheduled to start construction this summer. The tentative completion date is 12 months later. It’s only five years behind schedule—but hey, who’s counting? The city blamed the delay, in part, on plans to build a new a new water main nearby which was since shelved. The continued beautification of the East River includes new seating, resurfaced walkways, new seating and play equipment. There will also be waterfront access, recreational community space, railings and workout facilities.

The first phase opened to the public in Summer  of 2011 with Pier 15, a two-level, reconstructed waterfront pier, a particular highlight. Phase 2, which extends from Battery Maritime Building (at Broad Street) to Wall Street, opened in May 2013. This formerly narrow strip of land was widened to provide a walkway and bike lane, as well as planters and seating. Phase 3 extends from Pike/Allen to Pier 35, just north of the Manhattan Bridge. This portion opened in Spring 2014 and included nearly 1000 linear feet of open space park new active recreational uses like basketball courts, a petanque/bocce court, and an exercise area.

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Commercial as well as residential development has kept abreast with Esplanade. Several enormous high rises are in the works along the waterfront by JDS Development, L+M Development Partners and CIM Group. Also coming to the area is a massive 62-story tower at 259 Clinton Street. All these projects bring the total of 2700 new apartments to the once impoverished area known as Two Bridges. The latest tower, as well as the other, will comprise 25 percent affordable housing, which will allow the developer to take advantage of de Blasio’s affordable Housing Initiative. Starrett Development are major players in NYC Development and own several notable buildings, including Empire State Building, the Javits Center, Stuyvesant Town and Starrett City (Spring Creek Towers) in East New York.

President Josh Seigel told The Low Down, “We’re really trying to answer the mayor’s call for affordability. That’s what this project is aimed at. We are trying to answer that call to increase affordable housing, which as we all know, is always desperately needed in New York City.”

Their shiny new construction looks like it will be completed just in time for the pristine new Esplanade—developments that might leave some former LES residents aghast and the breadth and scope of change.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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