Restored natural features that complement man-made structures figure prominently in a proposed public park that would function as a storm barrier for Manhattan. The East River Blueway would create four miles of wetlands, parks, bicycle and pedestrian pathways and bridges, and the redevelopment of an unused beach under the Brooklyn Bridge.
Wetlands would extend into the river, replacing a line of bulkheads that over the years have increased river flow rates and cut off waterfront access. Beneath the FDR highway, a man-made system of freshwater marshes would filter runoff from the road. The project is designed to reduce flooding from storms such as Hurricane Sandy, which inundated lower Manhattan last October.
Tidal pools would provide wildlife habitat along with educational and recreational opportunities. City dwellers would be able to wade and cool off in these shallow bodies of water, and landings or docks would provide access for kayakers. Elevated platforms for walking and biking over the river would be constructed. A proposed bowtie-shaped pedestrian and bicycle bridge at 14th Street would form a security and flood barrier for an electrical substation while connecting people to the riverfront.
New York-based WXY Architecture + Urban Design developed the plan. eDesign Dynamics Environmental, based in New York, is the engineering and resource planning consultant, and Philip Habib and Associates, also New York-based, is the transportation and engineering consultant.
Talking about the advantages of wetlands and the need for a storm barrier, Claire Weisz, WXY’s founding principal, said: “The wetlands provide a natural buffer against storm-related surges that can cause major urban flooding. We’ve been working with people in the affected neighbourhoods and a local ecology centre, and we realise how much flood protection and waterfront access would improve their lives.”
Expected to cost in the tens of millions of dollars, the project would take many years to be completed—a schedule has not been released. Manhattan borough President Scott Stringer has already allocated $3.5 million for the construction of wetlands. The Blueway would connect to the north with the East River Greenway, a project to create a green, publicly accessible waterfront from 38th to 60th Streets.