Plans Shown for East River Esplanade Pavilion, Museum

Rendering of the planned Maiden Lane Pavilion, as seen from the East River esplanade. Rendering by the Economic Development Corp.

Feb. 07, 2013

By year’s end, a stroller can take a pleasant walk along the East River from the Brooklyn Bridge all the way down to the tip of Manhattan.

The soon-to-be completed stretch of waterfront is part of a greenway that will provide cyclists and pedestrians with a vehicle-free loop between Manhattan's east side and the five-mile-long stretch of Hudson River Park.

The final section of the $150 million esplanade overhaul, between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges (as yet not designed), is planned to be completed next year.

This month, two Community Board 1 committees got a first glimpse of the plans for the southernmost portion of the esplanade.

Renderings presented by officials of the Economic Development Corp., the city agency in charge of the work, showed an attractive esplanade with a maritime “educational center,” two restaurants and a new walkway, among other public amenities. Pier 15 in the South Street Seaport is slated to house the glass-enclosed maritime center and a café, which will be surrounded by historic ships and offer panoramic views of the harbor.

The walkway will link the pier to the southern Financial District, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to travel along the waterfront from Pier 17 to South Street at Whitehall. For hungry passers-by, there will also be a restaurant in a new, brightly-lit pavilion tucked underneath the FDR Drive at South Street and Maiden Lane.

The Pier 15 café and the restaurant in the Maiden Lane Pavilion, both to be operated by Merchants Hospitality, is expected to open by Memorial Day. Also come spring, the portion of the esplanade that extends from Wall Street to the tip of Manhattan will be ready for use.

Public restrooms will be installed at John Street.

The mechanical equipment servicing these and the other East River waterfront pavilions were heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy, causing a two-month delay in construction, according to Terri Bahr, an EDC project manager. 

“It’s just taken a long time to agree to what the insurance companies will front in order to get things replaced,” she explained. 

The renovated esplanade is being transformed from a dilapidated space into an expansive walkway with curved seating, extensive plantings and sleek, grey-and-white pavers. Down by the eastern edge of Wall Street, mesh fencing will separate pedestrians from cyclists. (The EDC redesigned the buffer—originally slated to be a 6-foot-high aluminum wall—after it received negative feedback from CB1 in 2010.)

Modifications have also been made to a popular dog run at Wall Street. The EDC got rid of the fencing used to separate large and small dogs. “We were told by the dog owners that they wanted just wide open space,” Julieanne Herskowitz, an EDC property manager said.

Seaport Committee member Joseph Lerner voiced concern that the Pier 15 café will encroach on what currently is public space. “Even now,” he said, “there’s not a surplus of seating on both the upper and lower levels. You’re taking away...what we thought was public space.”

Herskowitz said the city would be willing to address any public space issues after the café opens.

The café area “is a relatively small space in comparison to the entire layout of the pier,” Herskowitz said, “[but] if this is a request, then it is something we can certainly look at.”

The city is repairing the pier’s decking and seating, which already has been damaged by skateboarders in the short time since it opened. Those repairs are expected to be completed by the summer in preparation for the seasonal influx of tourists.