Last year, Upper East Siders celebrated the impending completion of a brand-new public space on the East River, Andrew Haswell Green Park. The new park, bordering the river from East 59th to East 63rd streets, has been under construction since 2008, when the city broke ground to renovate what had been strictly a drab industrial stretch along the FDR Drive. Now that the park is in its final phase, the Parks Department has discovered a unique problem that will set back the project by an unspecified amount of time and another $15 million.
â€œThere was a study done recently that shows that some of the pilings under the pier need replacement, said City Council Member Jessica Lappin, who has been a champion of the project since its inception and has appropriated city funds to complete it.
The problem is unfortunate for the park"s timeline but is a good sign for the environmental health of the city"s waterways. â€œAs the East River has become cleaner and the marine life there has been able to survive, they are eating away at the piers, Lappin said.
Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson confirmed that aquatic beings are to blame for the problem with the timber piles that support the areas jutting over the river.
â€œAs the East River has become supportive of life again, we have seen problems with marine borers cropping up, Abramson said in an email. â€œMarine borers are not fish per se, but a class of organism similar to water termites.
When the Parks Department acquired the property to develop the new park, they ordered a full structural study, utilizing divers to fully investigate the underwater elements. What they found, unfortunately, was â€œa pattern of increasing damage from the borers. As a result, the lower portion of the park won"t be able to be finished until funding is identified for the additional work that will be needed to replace and fortify the pilings.
Lappin is looking to the City Council to find the money, and other funding could come from state grants portioned out to Borough President Scott Stringer, who has allocated money to the project in the past. The idea for the park originally came from Community Board 8 in 2002, and the board has been closely watching its development since then.
The 1.3-acre park is named after a little-known urban planner who was murdered in 1903. Green was largely responsible for the design of many of New York"s most memorable sites's Central Park, Riverside Park, the Bronx Zoo, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's but is himself often forgotten in the collective historic memory of the city.
Hopefully, this will change upon the park"s completion. Abramson said that while the Parks Department waits to identify exactly how they can repair the pilings's and ensure that they will be resistant to the same type of underwater damage's and where the money will come from to do so, they are continuing with the rest of the park"s upgrades.
â€œWe are proceeding with developing the portion on top of the old pavilion structure that once housed the heliport, Abramson said. â€œWe will renovate that area to include a large lawn, shrubbery, benches, game tables, new perimeter railing, new pavement and steps. It will become a destination point for East Side residents and all New Yorkers with striking views of the East River.
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