Reimagining the Waterfront is a CIVITAS-sponsored initiative to improve the East River Esplanade between East 60th and 125th Streets.

In 2011 CIVITAS reached out to architects, landscape architects, urban planners, students and artists to generate dramatic and original concepts for the east side’s waterfront park, jump-starting a process that aspires to the transformation of the entire East River pedestrian experience.

The competition received over 90 submissions representing 24 countries.

Prize Winners:

- First – Joseph Wood, New Jersey, USA

- Second – Takuma Ono and Darina Zlateva, New York City, USA

- Third – Matteo Rossetti, Italy

Honorable Mentions:

- Gerard Cadger and Xenia Semeniuk, Canada

- David Elzer, Virginia, USA

- Néstor E. Lebrón González, Puerto Rico

- Jorge Manuel López, José María Echarte, Victoria Marrero, José Luis Llaca, María Ortiz, and María Andés, Spain

- Mohammad Ali Behbahani, Marco Corazza, Francesco Fusillo, Vincenzo Marcella, Roberta Nardi, Italy

Read about the winning designs in the April 18 edition of The Architect’s Newspaper: “Up the River” http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6000

The Site
The northern section of the East River Esplanade follows the edge of Manhattan’s densely inhabited residentialneighborhoods, from 60th Street in Midtown to 125th Street in Harlem. It currently features a bicycle path, trees, shrubs and benches but suffers from age and deterioration as well as limited planning. It is extremely narrow in most places, awkwardly configured in others and is not yet designed for recreational waterfront activities. The Esplanade has unique and excellent potential: it links well-situated and underused open spaces, underused historic docks and several pedestrian bridges. It is ripe for bold, innovative and coherent ideas.

The Site’s Potential
This site has unique potential because of proximity to heavily populated areas with limited park space, its riverfront location and its arresting views. Already this narrow strip of land provides a venue for biking, running and dog walking as well as for quiet time dedicated to fishing, reading, or watching the tides and boats. Across the water visitors can see bridges, a lighthouse, glass towers, historic structures, and the everchanging swirling tidal patterns of the East River and the Harlem River. Although the park has minimal amenities such as trees, shrubs, benches and lights, we seek new ideas for a compelling design, including improvements that would allow additional activities: boat renting, purchasing food, feeding ducks, sitting and walking closer to the water in more varied and alluring surroundings. Contestants should think freely about bold design concepts, new ideas and additional activities.

Auspicious Timing
Besides the astonishing potential of this site, our competition is prompted by several recent developments. One is the Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, which suggests some yet-to-be determined improvements to the existing Esplanade. Second, the recent proliferation of sinkholes suggests imminent repairs and partial rebuilding. The city has just dedicated funds for an engineering study. If this partial reconstruction occurs, it should be completed according to a more creative and ambitious scheme that includes better waterfront access and other features that acknowledge this dramatic and exciting location within a world-renowned city.

Also according to Vision 2020, the city will connect the Esplanade with Manhattan’s existing riverfront parks to the south, creating a continuous bike/running path around Manhattan. This future connection should increase the flow of cyclists, runners and strollers and it will amplify the benefit of creating a unique and memorable destination.

Finally, the popularity of Chelsea’s refurbished High Line has demonstrated the powerful allure of a linear arcadia replete with sculpture, plantings and ready access to the city’s streets.

With the results of this competition, we expect to continue the process of gathering support from residents, government leaders, institutions and businesses for the construction of an exceptional waterfront park. We hope ideas from the competition will play a role in both the initial publicity and the final outcome of this effort.