East River Esplanade Repair Costs Now Put at $200MM - Manhattan Express | Manhattan Express

East River Esplanade Repair Costs Now Put at $200MM

Stretches of the East River Esplanade from East 60th Street north are currently undergoing repair. | JACKSON CHEN

Stretches of the East River Esplanade from East 60th Street north are currently undergoing repair. | JACKSON CHEN

BY JACKSON CHEN | The cost estimate for repairs to the East River Esplanade has ballooned to roughly $210 million, up from the initial $115 million, according to recent numbers from the Department of Parks and Recreation.

The portion of the esplanade that stretches from East 60th Street to East 125th is in dire need of repairs, according to a study done by the parks department back in 2012 and 2013. That study found chunks of the retaining wall displaced, eroded, or cracked and the esplanade’s platform structure with deteriorated timber supports. The agency has also taken note of the chronic sinkholes that appear around East 90th Street and the partial collapse of the East 117th Street pier.

Following the study, Parks initially put the cost estimate at either $115 million for emergency repairs or $430 million to completely reconstruct the seawall. With solid numbers in front of them, Councilmember Ben Kallos and Community Board 8, in 2014, responded with a request for city funding to pursue the more modest repair option.

CB8 at that time passed a resolution requesting $120 million, intentionally overshooting the department’s number based on the assumption that costs would rise over time.

During a March 15 full board meeting, CB8 updated the three-year-old resolution by calling for $169 million, beyond the $41 million in publc funding already identified.

In a March 6 presentation to the East River Esplanade Task Force, which is co-chaired by Kallos and Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, Parks presented an updated estimate showing that this additional money will be needed over the next 10 years to complete the repair work that is currently envisioned.

“We knew that we needed to ask for more money,” Peggy Price, CB8’s Parks and Recreation co-chair, said. “We also learned at this task force meeting that $169 million may not be what’s ultimately needed. The prices rise and are continuing to rise, apparently.”

According to parks department spokesperson Meghan Lalor, the need for an additional $169 million over the next 10 years reflects “annual inflation and ongoing increases in construction costs,” adding that the project’s scope has increased since the original engineering study was carried out in 2012 and 2013.

“Both figures are estimates, and actual project costs will differ depending on their scope and phasing,” Lalor said in an email. “$169 [million] is the additional amount, beyond existing funding, needed to bring the remainder of the facility up to a state of good repair.”

As funding for the repairs comes together, public dollars are not the only sources that have been identified. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive budget has, to date, allocated $35 million, with an additional $6 million coming from the City Council, providing the $41 millon already set.

Kallos, however, pointed to separate commitments of $43 million from the city’s Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Design and Construction — and from private institutions including Rockefeller University and Memorial Sloan Kettering.

The councilmember said the costs are “ever-increasing” and he intended to continue his advocacy of funding for the full $169 million, especially in the upcoming City Council budget hearings. Given the nature of a major project unfolding over a decade, however, he explained that incremental increases ranging from $30 million to $60 million are likely going to be what bring the project up to full funding.

Asked how receptive the city is about making sure the repairs get the money needed, Kallos said, “We’ve had a strong commitment from the mayor, we have a strong commitment from the governor for funding infrastructure projects, and this is part of that commitment.”

He added, “The city must fund infrastructure, otherwise it will just fall apart and get worse. This mayor gets that.”

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