East Siders have been looking forward to the East River Blueway plan to beautify their waterfront for quite some time now, but it seems the project will be more than just a pretty face. Manhattan's borough president, Scott Stringer, recently lauded the Blueway's newly updated design, which now includes a storm-water absorbing wetland and a sandy urban beach. The city had been exploring natural solutions to act as a storm surge barriers for vulnerable areas after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, and was able to incorporate the wetlands with the help of WXY, the Blueway's lead architects and planners.
The East River Blueway is a project that aims to revitalize Manhattan’s east side waterfront area from 38th Street to the Brooklyn Bridge. Though many New Yorkers already use the 4-mile-stretch for exercise, much of it is currently not the most visually pleasing, and the need to traverse the FDR Drive in order to reach the water is a deterrent for some. WXY’s new Blueway planseeks to eliminate those issues with easy public access to the river (as well as an inaccessible beach under the Brooklyn Bridge), new and upgraded pedestrian bridges, added parks and green space and a safer path for bikers and pedestrians.
In addition to updates that would improve quality of life for area residents, the proposed wetlands could mean a world of difference for those on Manhattan’s east side that found themselves stranded or in the dark after Hurricane Sandy. “The wetlands provide a natural buffer against storm-related surges that can cause major urban flooding,” explained Claire Weisz, AIA, WXY’s founding principal. “We’ve been working with people in the affected neighborhoods and the Lower East Side Ecology Center, and we realize how much flood protection and waterfront access would improve their lives.”
The project still has a long ways to go, but President Stringer has pledged $3.5 million in capital for the wetlands construction, an injection that should certainly move it closer to reality.