Lower East Side park conceived by Robert Moses in the 1930s
New York City Department of Parks and Recreation: East River Park
East River Park, at fifty-nine acres, is the third largest park in Manhattan. It was created by Robert Moses in the 1930s to offer recreational opportunities to the over crowded, low income and immigrant neighborhood of the Lower East Side. The Park stretches from 12th Street down to Montgomery Street, and is sandwiched between FDR Drive and the East River.
The Park features a reconstructed esplanade with great views into the harbor. The older part of the Park contains mature trees along its service road. The Park also features very distinct buildings such as the track building, with interesting tile work, an anchor monument, and barbecue areas. There are diverse sports facilities, such as eight baseball fields, a running track, tennis courts, and a playground. There are also social meeting spaces, such as the dance oval and the amphitheater and an environmental education center at the Fire Boathouse. The Williamsburg Bridge is another dominating man-made feature in the Park. The space also offers the opportunity to be close to the waterways, and an access point for boats at the Fire Boathouse with its wharf.
The Park continues to be an important asset to the neighborhood, providing opportunities for families to picnic in the summer, enjoy free events at the amphitheater, play on the ball fields and tennis courts, and passive recreation, such as a stroll along the esplanade. East River Park is also an important ecological asset as an open space right next the the estuary, serving as a refuge for the diverse wildlife, such as birds and insects. Since 1998, the Lower East Side Ecology Center, a local not-for-profit, has offered environmental and stewardship programs in the Park.
East River Park has undergone ten years of ongoing construction, and many of the physical details have changed or have been affected by this undertaking. Construction along the esplanade, however, is going to be completed in the summer of 2011, which will provide an opportunity to engage the community in their ’new’ Park. With the changing demographics of the Lower East Side, and the diverse uses that the Park offers, it will be important to bring these diverse and diverting issues together to create a strong community around the truly important resource for the Lower East Side. (March, 2011)
East River Park is a place where there is always something happening. People are always playing baseball, basketball, tennis, handball, and soccer. During the winter people still play football and rugby. There are a few recreational parks within the park, including baseball fields, tennis courts, a football and soccer field, and a track. If you go to the park you will see people jogging, exercising, walking their dogs, playing all types of sports, enjoying picnics and enjoying the East River.
The park has received many improvements over the years. The walkway next to the river renewed, (it used to be dangerous because the gate meant to hold people back from the water was not sturdy), and the basketball courts have been improved, and the baseball fields are now covered in artificial grass. The new turf helps when there is bad weather, but I do miss the real grass because the artificial grass takes away the element of a real field. (November, 2012)
Waterfront park on the East River, all along the East Village and Lower East Side, servicing the folks who live nearby. An esplanade on the water for walking, jogging, and biking; tennis courts; soccer field; sprinklers; a playground; grass, flowers, and trees trees trees. An amphitheater for performances and gatherings. Always full of people, thousands of people. Our family uses it literally every day. The "seal park", with its sculptures depicting seals and other water life, is a favorite. Lovely sprinklers for the kids, which are lit in the evening by the sunset coming through on Grand Street. Benches to sit in the shade.
It was in use and a godsend all during the COVID era. Most folks were masked and duly distanced. Wonderful to just have an outdoor space to take a walk, either by yourself, with your family or pod, or distanced with friends.
During hurricane Sandy, the tide came up quickly, overtook East River Park and flooded the nearby area. We need a plan to alter the waterfront (i.e. make it higher) to prevent future flooding. However current plan by the city is unacceptable. We are hoping for a better plan. There was a demonstration in mid-April 2021 and thousands showed up.
(added April 2021)
Imagine: A 57.5-acre park running along lower Manhattan’s eastern coastline. Spectacular views of Greenpoint, the Williamsburg Bridge, and Downtown Brooklyn. 1,000+ mature trees to rest under. Manicured landscaping. Bike paths. Barbecue pits and picnic tables for families and friends to enjoy. A composting yard. Local athletes relishing the tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, and a recently renovated track. A ferry stop. Refreshing breezes from the East River. This little slice of heaven actually exists in the Lower East Side. It is cherished by its local community as a place of rest and relaxation from the noisy and crowded streets of Manhattan.
In December 2019, the New York City Council voted to approve the $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project. The plan will completely demolish the existing East River Park, with the renovation elevating it by 8-10 feet with landfill. The surrounding community will be greatly impacted with pollution and noise from the demolition, which is expected to last years and be over budget. It’s a terrible, terrible plan - one that local residents like myself do not approve.
The park kept me sane during the dark days of the lockdown. With anxiety high and my gym membership suspended, I would go for 2-hour long walks daily. Watching the flowers and trees bloom in April and May gave me hope for life after the pandemic. I cherish every moment I spend in the park. It will be deeply missed by the local community if it is destroyed. #saveourpark
(added April 2021)