From: New Directions: A 197-A Plan for Manhattan Community district 11 (Revised 1999)


Most of this chapter was taken from the comprehensive Manhattan Waterfront Plan which was adopted in 1997 by the Department of City Planning.

In East Harlem, the East River Promenade runs along the waterfront from 96th to 125th Street, with a recreational pier located at 107th Street. Plans are underway to extend the promenade from 125th to 143rd Street. The proposed extension, to be named the Harlem Beach Esplanade, will contain picnic and sunbathing areas as well as volleyball courts. When completed the esplanade will form a continuous paved promenade from 84th to 143rd Streets.

East 96th - East 125th Streets
At-grade access exists at 96th Street; however, busy FDR Drive access routes under the FDR Drive must be crossed. Upland, Stanley Isaacs Park, on the north and south sides of 96th Streets, acts as a natural draw to bring people closer to the waterfront; the problem is that people are reluctant to cross under the Drive to get to the esplanade. Currently, the area under the FDR Drive is used for parking. The quality of the at-grade access here is greatly lessened by the constant vehicle-pedestrian conflict which disrupts the continuity of the esplanade and creates a division between the Upper East Side portion of the esplanade and the East Harlem portion. Furthermore, the area near 96th Street and Stanley Isaacs Park lacks signs and/or painted walkways that could lead pedestrians to the esplanade.

North of 96th Street, the FDR Drive is at-grade and access to the waterfront is severely limited. Pedestrian overpasses occur at 103rd, 111th and 120th Streets. The upland areas are developed at a high density and additional access would ensure greater use of the waterfront. Some of the adjacent upland uses such as the East 103rd Street Playground, and the Thomas Jefferson Playground bring a large number of people in to areas immediately adjacent to the waterfront, but the limited opportunities for access severely restrict recreational use of the waterfront. In addition, because of limited waterfront access, neither Ward's Island Park nor Randall's Island Park are used to their fullest potential by area residents.

A recreation pier is located in the East River at 107th Street, recently rehabilitated. It provides the City with an opportunity to create ferry service linking East Harlem to recreational waterfront areas.

The esplanade comes to an abrupt end at 125th Street at the base of the Triborough Bridge.

East 125th - East 142nd Streets
The land directly north of the Triborough Bridge, from 125th to 131st Streets, is under the jurisdiction of Department of General Services and is now leased to DOS for a salt storage site (from East 125th to 127th Streets) and to a private concrete plant (from East 127th to 131st Streets). In February 1994, Division of Real Property issued a Request for Bids (RFB) for alternate uses for the concrete plant site. There were no responses and DIVISION OF REAL PROPERTY intends to issue a new RFB.

Undeveloped parkland, under the jurisdiction of department of Parks and Recreation lies from East 131 st to West 145th Streets. Pedestrian access points currently exist at 125th, 127th and 142nd Streets. Existing bridges to the Bronx and ramps onto the Harlem River Drive at 129th Street (Third Avenue Bridge), 135th Street (Harlem River Drive access), 138th Street (Madison Avenue Bridge), 139th Street (Harlem River Drive access) and 145th Street (145th Street Bridge) could be adapted to provide increased pedestrian waterfront access. This stretch of waterfront is ideal for expanded recreational development. It is a sizable waterfront property, averaging over 100 feet in width, owned by the City, and adjacent to a densely populated community of approximately 18,000 residents.

There has been considerable community interest in developing a waterfront park; the tenants of the Riverton Houses development took the initiative to commission a design for a portion of the area, executed by Harold Thorne. In Spring 1991, the Borough President commissioned a design study of this full area. The resulting design, prepared by the landscape architecture firm Quennell Rothschild Associates, built upon the Riverton Tenants Association proposal. It is entitled "Harlem Beach Esplanade."

Although pollution makes it unsafe to swim in the rivers around Manhattan, this plan would provide a form of "beach" similar to portions of the Chicago Lakefront which are used for beach-like activities and which are constructed to evoke the sense of a beach. (Manhattan is the only borough of the City without any beaches.) It would accommodate the broadest possible range of waterfront recreation, such as a wading pool, sprinklers, fishing and barbecue and picnic areas, as well as such traditional esplanade activities as jogging, biking, sitting and strolling. Tall beacons, easily visible from blocks away, would advertise the presence of Harlem Beach Esplanade and the connections to the City street grid.

A gateway entrance plaza would be located at 127th Street and another between 135th and 139th Streets. They would incorporate pedestrian entrances, vehicular access and drop-off areas, and tree lined seating and picnicking areas. Rest rooms, a building for community events and concessions, a playground and a waterfront esplanade are also planned for these areas. Another possibility to be explored is mooring a pool-barge for seasonal swimming; this would contribute to the area's beachlike character.

Ward's and Randall's Islands
Ward's and Randall's Islands, which are connected by a causeway, were first acquired by the City of New York in 1835 and were used during the nineteenth century as the location of a potter's field, an
almshouse and a home for juvenile delinquents. With the completion of the Triborough Bridge in 1935, the City took possession of the islands and began to develop their recreational potential. Parks (and Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority) Commissioner Robert Moses envisioned developing the islands as a regional sports and recreation center. This vision ultimately resulted in the building of Downing Stadium, a nature center, ball fields, tennis courts, picnic areas, playgrounds and other recreational facilities.

Access to the islands, however, is extremely limited. There are only two points of entry: vehicular access to Randall's Island via the Triborough Bridge; and pedestrian access to Ward's Island by the 103rd Street overpass. Pedestrian traffic is discouraged, however, by the location of a homeless shelter on the island near the overpass.

Non-recreational uses continue to coexist with the Randall's and Ward's Island's many recreational resources. Public facilities located there include: DOS and Fire Department training facilities; a State mental hospital; the previously mentioned homeless shelter operated by the Volunteers of America; a Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority facility, DIVISION OF REAL PROPERTY support facilities; and the Ward's Island Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP), A State-funded drug treatment facility is also proposed.

The Ward's Island WPCP is located on a 94-acre site. Sludge de-watering facilities there serve the Ward's Island plant and the North River WPCP. A pilot sludge composting facility has been developed there to process this de-watered sludge. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) plans to construct a sludge chemical stabilization facility at the northern comer of the WPCP site.

Randall's and Ward's Islands can accommodate the current number of non-recreational facilities, while maximizing the recreational use of the islands. However, the siting of future non-recreational facilities - including an additional state-run drug treatment facility on the island -- must consider sites adjacent to existing non-recreational facilities.

Today, Randall's Island plays host to club, league and high school softball, baseball, cricket, soccer games and track meets. Randalls Island was the site of the track events of the 1994 Gay Games, and in 1998 hosted the Goodwill Games' Track and Field events.

However, the island's recreational infrastructure is severely deteriorated. This is clearly evidenced in the poor condition of Downing Stadium. The Randall's Island's Sports Foundation is a public/private partnership formed to rehabilitate these recreational facilities. The partnership has already persuaded the City to commit $20 million in capital monies, a portion of which will be matched by private donors. In addition, the foundation has provided staff and resources to maintain ball fields, furnish new summer day-camp activities, enhance routine maintenance and make other interim improvements.

Certain revenue-generating recreational concessions have been developed by DIVISION OF REAL PROPERTY in recent years. These concessions provide revenue to the City and require the concessionaire to make physical improvements to Randall's Island.



1. The City should develop the East Harlem Beach Esplanade (East 125th to 142nd Streets). The City must commit design and capital funds to implement this project.

2. The City and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation should conduct a study that examines the feasibility of ferry service from the East 107th Street Recreation Pier or waterfront area adjacent to the East River Plaza near 116th and 117th Streets.

3. The City should eliminate parking under the FDR Drive at Stanley Isaacs Park (First Avenue and East 96th Street) and instead develop this area for waterfront related uses that would attract people to the nearby esplanade. In the short-term, signs and painted walkways would make pedestrian access easier. This would reinforce the waterfront area as a natural extension between the Upper East Side
and the East Harlem neighborhoods.


1 . The City should assess the impact of City services currently sited on Randall's and Ward's Islands and restrict any future non-recreational use on the island. City agencies that are considering utilizing the Randall's and Ward's Islands for non-recreational uses should coordinate planning efforts with the Department of Parks, other City agencies and CB# 11.

2. The City should continue to host major sporting events at Randall's and Ward's Islands. The City should develop further the island' potential for a park, a sports complex and appropriate sports-related or public revenue-producing events.

3. The City should install lighting and maintain lighting and provide security coverage, such a guards, on the East 103rd Street overpass to Ward's Island, the Island park pathways and the East Harlem's pedestrian pathways and the esplanade.

Other Sections of the 197-A Plan

History of East Harlem
Demographic and Socio-Economic Profile
Land Use and Zoning
City-Owned Vacant Property
Housing and Urban Renewal
Economic Development
The Waterfront
Tranportation and Infrastructure
Institutional and Historical Resources
Non-Profits At Work In East Harlem
For Profits At Work In East Harlem

Maps (all pertain to Community Board # 11)
The maps are in Gif format. File sizes are big, but you can better see the details in the maps.

Community Board District # 11 (162K)
Population of Race and Ethnicity by Census Track (679K
Land Use (Color 579K)
Zoning Map (244K)
Major Housing Developments (329K)
Urban Renewal Areas (328K)
Empowerment Zone (630K)
Economic Developement (628K)
Public Transportation (672K)
Historic District and Landmarks (610K)
Crossroads (589K)


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