A series of community meetings to discuss improvements to the East River Esplanade (60 – 125th Streets) were hosted by CIVITAS and Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects. Click on the links below to view the presentations.

Tuesday, May 6th View the presentation by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 24th View the presentation by clicking here.

Monday, September 22 View the presentation by clicking here.

The series of meetings was kicked off with a listening session, and then focus on opportunities and constraints that embrace issues such as Esplanade dimensions, land use, environmental concerns, regulatory parameters and recreational considerations.

Building on the visionary designs in CIVITAS’s Reimagining the Waterfront exhibition, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects will develop a study analyzing existing conditions of the Esplanade in order to frame the strategic opportunities for a better park. These visioning meetings will establish specific long and short-term goals that will be incorporated into their recommendations.

CIVITAS’s work to promote an improved Esplanade is made possible by grants from the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, The New York Community Trust, and the New York City Council.


Reimagining the Waterfront: Manhattan’s East River Esplanade is on view at Manhattan Borough President’s Office starting February 13, 2015.

Location: Manhattan Borough President’s Office, 1 Centre Street, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10007

Share your thoughts on the Reimagining the Waterfront: Manhattan’s East River Esplanade competition designs, and your visions for a re-imagined East River Esplanade.


Since 2011 CIVITAS has organized an international ideas competition and museum exhibition as well as design workshops, lectures, and community service projects focused on visions for an improved East River Esplanade from 60th-125th Street. CIVITAS feels strongly that the East River waterfront could serve a major recreational and environmental need for East Harlem, the Upper East Side and New York City. “Superstorm Sandy”, the hurricane that devastated the East Coast on October 29, 2012 is a reminder that if we do not shape our waterfront edge, nature will continue to shape it for us.

As time goes on, the images of the FDR Drive underwater, flooding on First Avenue and destroyed communities across New York and New Jersey remain fresh. Also resonating are landscape architect Signe Nielsen’s prescient remarks at a June panel discussion for the exhibition: “ I think we’ve come to understand, and unfortunately we’ve learned this from other places in the country, that the more we hard edge our rivers, our channels and our shorelines, the more we are susceptible to catastrophic damage. And indeed, the softer the edge, the more resilient we are.” Indeed, this type of “soft edge” waterfront redesign is taking place across New York. Climate resilience and rising sea levels were explored conceptually in the CIVITAS competition and exhibition.

With recent maintenance problems with the Esplanade, a engineering study evaluating its infrastructure and piers, and the community activism opposing the Marine Transfer Station, there is considerable attention being devoted to the Upper East Side and East Harlem community’s East River edge. Isn’t it time that we, as a community, develop a more comprehensive plan to prepare for future of our waterfront? Many of New York’s great—and recently opened—waterfront parks have their origins in the 1980s and 1990s. Such ambitious expensive projects take time. To prepare for the future needs of our Upper East Side and East Harlem community, the time is now.

Support This Effort to Improve the East River Esplanade