East River United Nations deal may mark turning point for waterfront

The East River waterfront is set to be transformed into continuous parkland and recreational space along the East Side that will rival the Hudson waterfront, the New York Times reported, following a number of important announcements by the Bloomberg administration, including the conversion of Pier 42 into open space and the opening of Pier 15. But the vital turning point may come in the form of the United Nations East River esplanade deal.

Following the announcement of Bloomberg’s 20-year plan for the waterfront, unveiled in March, the most significant development may be an as-yet unlinked deal with the U.N., the Times said. The deal, which would allow the United Nations to build a tower on part of a playground in east Midtown in exchange for $73 million and a replacement park, would set the stage for major transformation, according to experts.

“The table has been set, and now the U.N. will have to come onboard,” said Adrian Benepe, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. “I learned long ago in government never to promise anything unless you know the park is opening the next day, but things are moving in the right direction.”

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If everything goes to plan, the East River could be positioned to rival the West Side.

“There isn’t any doubt that the East Side has lagged behind the extraordinary development of Hudson River Park,” said Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society, a non-profit planning organization. “But the vision for the East River Greenway is coming into more tangible view. It’s time.” [NYT]