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Transformative East River Waterfront Blueway Responds to Sandy, Design Challenges

Later this week, after years of lobbying by local community boards for improvements, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh will formally announce plans for a significant redevelopment of the East River waterfront. Serving as both a storm barrier and urban recreation zone, the East River Blueway Plan was developed by lower Manhattan-based planning and design firm WXY Architecture + Urban Design.

Currently in the design phase, the 4-mile-long project would stretch from the Brooklyn Bridge north to East 38th Street and reinvigorate one of Manhattan’s least accessible waterfronts. It would build wetlands, pedestrian bridges, parks, a bike and walking path, and even a sandy beach underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. The wetlands would not only improve aesthetics but also act as a storm barrier against tidal surges from future superstorms like Sandy. Mr. Stringer has already pledged $3.5 million in funding to kickstart the project.

But the design’s most intriguing technical component is at East 14th Street and ConEd’s substation, where the FDR Drive is flush against the waterfront (image above). The Blueway proposes a flying pedestrian bridge over and around the FDR that would connect with the waterfront, where a storm wall would provide additional surge protection for the substation. And, at two of the waterfront’s natural coves (at 14th Street and beneath the Brooklyn Bridge), the Blueway would remove bulkheads and install tidal pools and beaches for both recreational and river-cleaning purposes.

“The wetlands provide a natural buffer against storm-related surges that can cause major urban flooding,” said Claire Weisz, AIA, WXY’s founding principal, in a press release. “We’ve been working with people in the affected neighborhoods and a local ecology center, and we realize how much flood protection and waterfront access would improve their lives.”

 

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