The mission of Friends of the East River Esplanade is the restoration and reinvention of this spectacular, though forlorn, section of the Esplanade from 60th to 120th Streets. We have been working with, and will continue to work with, our partner community groups, elected officials, and private enterprises, to complement the NYC Department of Parks maintenance and repair of this public space. Our goal is to improve and enhance the quality of the running paths, boating access, fishing piers and bike paths, with our group's focus The Esplanade to the North and South of Carl Schurz Park's John Finley Walk.
- Advocacy: EsplanadeFriends relentlessly advocates for the expeditious repair of The Esplanade's infrastructure. We work with officials at every level of City, State and Federal government and closely with many NYC Parks officials and local Parks workers, as well as with local Community Boards. We are active participants in The East River Esplanade Task Force (led by our local City Council and Congressional representatives), and we participate in many other local leadership groups related to The Esplanade, most recently as stakeholders in the Project Advisory Committee for the Harlem River Park Greenway Link (the 11 acre waterfront park that will connect to the East River Esplanade at 125th St and run north).
- Gardening and Landscaping: We routinely organize volunteer bulb planting and gardening through our volunteer gardening committee and we professionally landscape in the areas where this is possible using donated funds and City Council funding.
- Public Art: EsplanadeFriends aims to bring spectacular public art to The Esplanade. In 2015, we commissioned the light painting artist VickiDa Silva to photograph The Esplanade and created the East River Flows public art banner, the first ever public art exhibited on the East Harlem waterfront. We followed this up in 2016 with the renowned artist Kenny Scharf's NeverEndingGOGO at 116th St and the East River, aside the formerly decrepit column he recreated as the painted TotemOH.
- Programming: We present innovative and exciting music, dance and nature programming on the waterfront, often with free food sponsored by COFFEED and free ice cream from new, delicious vendors.
- Information: Moving forward, we hope to serve as a liaison between the Parks Department and other City agencies and the public users of the waterfront, updating our website with repair and other information provided to us by the City.
SOME ESPLANADE HISTORY
The East River Esplanade was acquired in 1939 as part of the construction of the FDR Drive. The only highway in New York City not built entirely under the direction of Robert Moses, construction of the East River Drive was overseen by Stanley Isaacs (1882-1962), the Manhattan Borough President from 1938-41. When portions of the highway needed to be built over landfill, the landfill used was masonry rubble from buildings in London destroyed by German bombs during World War II. The rubble was carried across the ocean by convoy ships as ballast. The esplanade is bordered on one side by the FDR Drive and on the other by the East River. The walk features wide-open views of Roosevelt Island and the Triborough and Hell Gate Bridges, and passes Gracie Mansion, the traditional residence of New York City’s Mayor. The East River Esplanade includes Bobby Wagner Walk (in honor of a distinguished public servant) that extends from 90th to 125th Street, in honor of Bobby’s home on 89th Street between York and East End Avenues.
The pavement and seawall are in dire need of renovation. There is a pier at 107th Street (renovated in 1991) that is also in severe disrepair.