by Anya Chapman and Elizabeth VanMetre
Mayor Bill de Blasio praised his work on the Hudson River Greenway along the West Side Highway on April 25, adding that the new changes “vastly improved the quality of life on the West Side.” He also took the opportunity to share his newest initiative: to help give the East Side the same treatment.
In a press release, de Blasio announced his plans to construct a $100 million 12-mile pedestrian and bicycle path along the East River, which will complete the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway on the Upper East Side. The esplanade will be located between East 61st and East 53rd Street.
“This is the first of many big investments we’ll make as we bring the full Greenway to reality,” de Blasio said on Tuesday.
While city and local officials are pleased with the new initiative they hope will benefit the area’s development and serve the needs of cyclists in the area, Upper East residents are a bit more skeptical.
“People are using public transportation every single day, as an artery through the city to get to work, rather than a billion dollar bike path,” says interior designer and an Upper East Side resident Sean Matijevich, 46, He wishes the money would go towards improving public transportation instead.
Joanne Sharpe, 54, who works on the Upper East Side, would prefer to see the money used for the needy population living in the neighborhood.
“If you look on the subways in the morning, there are people sleeping on the trains and on the streets,” says Sharpe. She pointed out that the neighborhood already has extended paths for bikes, walkers and joggers. “The Upper East Side is not a needy area,” she adds.
Other residents, such as Jackson Rogow, 23, also agree that $100 million could be spent more wisely, especially since the area has been the key beneficiary of the new Second Avenue subway.
“We just got the ‘Q’ train. I feel like it’s a little bit too much money coming into this area, compared to other areas in need,” he says. A biker himself, Rogow thinks that biking on the Upper East Side could be dangerous, but believes that the investment is not worth it in the long run.
“The path is going to be only 20 blocks,” he said. “It’s not even that long, so it won’t even make that much of a difference for bikers.”
While many Upper East Side residents feel mixed about de Blasio’s initiative, some in the neighborhood clearly support it.
“I love the idea,” says Josh Smith, 42, a small business CEO who lives on the Upper East Side and thinks that it’s a great spot for a new esplanade.
“My son does cycling. He likes being outside, so the quality of life should improve for us,” says Smith. “I think it’s always great to build new things in the city, as long as it is not coming back at the taxpayer.”
For others, it’s a matter of safety. The idea of a new waterfront esplanade for bikes would be a solution, they say, that would make moving around the neighborhood safer for everyone.
“The only place that you should have bicycles on is on the East River,” says David Davidson, 89, adding that bicycles are constantly blocking bus stops on the Upper East Side and preventing cars from passing through the road intersections. It’s an issue the retiree feels strongly about. Davidson says the new path will not only improve the lives of bicyclists, but also of pedestrians. “I walk there all the time too,” he says.
The designing of the esplanade isn’t expected to begin until the end of the year and construction will likely start in 2019 and end in 2022.