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Reopenings of Closed East River Park Sections Pushed Back, But City Insists Project Is Still on Time

Will the contentious project actually hit its 2026 deadline? The city says yes, and is already reopening some areas.

12:39 PM EDT on May 31, 2023

East River Park below Houston Street on May 31st, 2023. (Hell Gate)

When the demolition and reconstruction of East River Park was hastily reimagined back in 2019 after concerns over ballooning costs and feasibility, Lower Manhattan residents were given a choice—they could either allow the park to be completely closed for a few years while the City and the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) built a complicated system of storm walls and floodwater management pipes, or have that work be staggered over a longer period of time, which would allow about 40 percent of the park to be open at all times. 

Perhaps familiar with the pace of American infrastructure projects generally (slow, late, over-cost) or New York City's in particular (oh god so slow, so late, so expensive), community residents chose to go with the staggered option, in which the City guaranteed that 42 percent of the park would remain open during construction. Otherwise, people worried, they might be stuck with a completely closed park for possibly a lot longer than just five years. 

Residents maybe had reason to worry—in a presentation to a community advisory board right before Memorial Day weekend, the DDC pushed back its estimated completion dates for parts of the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, its name for the park demolition and reconstruction, as well as its surrounding floodwater management plan. Overall, however, DDC insisted that an end of 2026 deadline was still in sight. 

The southernmost construction area, which stretches from Grand Street to Corlears Hook, was originally scheduled to be reopened to the public this fall—now, that's been pushed back to the summer of 2024. The stretch just above it, from Grand Street to Stanton Street, has been pushed even further back to 2025. DDC staffers explained that the delay on these sections, which are currently closed off to the public, is due to a reallocation of construction efforts to the large section south of Houston Street, where massive floodwater conveyance systems are now being buried underground. Soon, they say, they'll begin to infill the land in that section, and raise the park between eight and ten feet, before reconstructing it entirely. 

The updated timeline. (DDC)

But the DDC insists that the full project will still be completed by 2026, even with the rearrangement of its proposed timelines, and that the City will still abide by its commitment to keep about 40 percent of the park open during this time. 

We asked DDC how it will be able to keep that commitment, and stay on schedule, if some parts of the park will be closed now for longer than originally planned. Staffers explained that's because the park is right now over 50 percent open—meaning more of the park will be shut down to keep construction on pace, while also staying above the community commitment. 

Also helping that percentage stay above 42 percent? The fact that parts of the park are now beginning to reopen, after storm protections have been installed. 

On Wednesday morning, the City showed off a brand-new stretch of Stuyvesant Cove Park between 21st and 23rd Streets, which has been redone with massive, movable flood walls that now protect Stuy Town, the massive housing complex located behind the flood walls. DDC head Thomas Foley announced that the entire project was still "on time and on schedule."

The rebuilt Stuyvesant Cove Park. (Hell Gate)

Councilmember Carlina Rivera, who represents the southern end of the park (and faced criticism for signing off on the plan to ultimately raze, raise, and rebuild the park), said that "over the next few years, we're finally going to see more and more of this park open up." 

The new, movable floodgates. (Hell Gate)

That stretch of park, leading to the Stuyvesant Cove ferry landing, the City says, should be fully open within the next few weeks. The rest of the park? They're sticking with 2026. We'll find out soon enough about that. 

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