A Plan for a New Riverfront Park Faces a Struggle
Federal, state and city officials, as well as several civic organizations, expressed support on Thursday for plans for a waterfront park to be built in the shadow of the United Nations.
The project faces many hurdles — including timing, the difficulty pedestrians in the park would have in reaching the East River bank, and finding up to $100 million to pay for it.
The park would be on four acres of city-owned land at the northern end of Glick Park, at 38th Street and Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive in Manhattan. The proposed park space is now decaying concrete, blocked by a gate and a fence with barbed wire and shadowed by an off-ramp to the drive.
The proposal comes at a time when Sheldon H. Solow, a real estate developer, plans to turn the adjacent former site of Consolidated Edison’s waterside power plants into a luxury development.
Mr. Solow’s $4 billion project, which involves the largest stretch of undeveloped, privately owned land in Manhattan, is under review by the City Council.
Daniel R. Garodnick, the council member whose district includes the waterfront area, told reporters Thursday morning at a news conference at the site that now was the ideal time to press for a new park.
He said the aging off-ramp towering over the site was to be rebuilt as part of the overall reconstruction of the F.D.R. Drive by the State Department of Transportation.
Mr. Garodnick conceded that developing the park would be a complicated process. The site is close to the United Nations, which is concerned that open public spaces nearby may make it vulnerable to terrorist attack. Mr. Solow’s private parcel across the street raises issues of access as well; officials say they would need an easement allowing passage from the Solow property to the park.
Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York, told reporters at the news conference that his group and others had developed a detailed plan for a waterfront park.
He unveiled a large illustration and pointed to two plastic inflated palm trees, which kept falling over in the chilly East River winds. “Of course, there would be trees,” Mr. Barwick said, laughing.
Cost estimates for the park vary between $80 million and $100 million, said Mr. Garodnick, a Democrat whose Council district covers part of Midtown. He said his district had the least park space per capita of any in the city.
Mr. Garodnick was less precise about where the money would come from. “For the question about who would pay, we expect it will be a combination of forces,” he said.
He continued, “This is an opportunity for the city, and for the state and the federal government to come together and say we want to elevate people over cars.”
Edward Rubin, an architect and co-chairman of the land-use committee of Community Board 6, has studied the issue extensively.
“The East Side has been the poor stepsister of the West Side,” which has the Riverside Park promenade and other waterfront access, he said. “The East Side had a lot of piers, industrial stuff, a highway right next to the F.D.R. Drive — and it’s very hard to connect to the waterfront.”
Mr. Solow’s project and the state’s scheduled rebuilding of the off-ramp and other parts of the drive make the next six to eight years critical for developing the park, Mr. Rubin said.
“We have a unique opportunity to move the F.D.R. Drive to the west,” he said, and “shorten the exit ramp to 42nd Street.”
Mr. Solow “hasn’t said anything yet” about granting the easement, Mr. Rubin said. “If the city doesn’t allow these things to happen, you’ll lose this opportunity forever.”
By ANTHONY RAMIREZ