Harlem River Park

The Daily Plant : Monday, May 10, 2010

Parks Cuts Ribbon on New "Eco Friendly" Section of Harlem River Bikeway

Photo by Daniel Avila

On April 28, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe was joined by NYC EDC Chief Financial Officer Jason Wright, Harlem River Park Task Force Director Thomas G. Lunke and local school and community groups to cut the ribbon on $9.6 million in renovations to Phase II of the Harlem River Park Bikeway and Esplanade. The project, which created a new bikeway and promenade along the Harlem River, brings the City closer to the goal of creating a continuous esplanade around Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg allocated $6.3 million to the project, with an additional $2 million grant from the Transportation Enhancements Program and a $1.3 million allocation from the NY State Environmental Protection Fund through the NY State Department of State.

“Across the five boroughs, new parks and greenways are connecting New Yorkers with the City’s great waterways,” said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “The restored Harlem River Esplanade will provide the community with an accessible waterfront park in an area where open space is greatly needed. It also includes some remarkable, innovative approaches to ‘softening the edge’ by building a new generation of porous sea walls. The completion of this project demonstrates how much can be achieved when City, State and Federal governments work closely with local community groups to improve the quality of life for today’s residents and future generations.”

“The Harlem River Park Task Force is pleased to be a partner with the New York City Parks Department in the development of an environmentally sustainable and culturally relevant state-of-the-art waterfront park in Harlem,” said Thomas G. Lunke, Director of the Harlem River Park Task Force. “We look forward to continuing our work with Parks to program events in the newly completed 13-block long park, and to assist in its expansion north and south as it links with the growing greenway around Manhattan.”

“This new section of Harlem River Park is a wonderful addition to a vibrant park, and the New York State Department of Transportation is proud for our role in its completion,” said Phillip Eng, New York City Regional Director of NYSDOT. “Under the leadership of Governor David Paterson and Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee, we have worked with the Harlem River Park Task Force, New York City Parks and other state and city agencies to help build and expand the green ribbon along New York City’s waterfront. Congratulations to all on the first of many beautiful days in this revitalized section of the Harlem waterfront.”

The project was designed by Parks Landscape Architects Marcha Johnson and Ricardo Hinkle, in addition to Dewberry-Goodkind Inc. “I was very heartened and excited to see a group of kids and their parents climbing the boulders and inspecting the tidepools,” said designer Ricardo Hinkle. “Between the tidepools, the gabion setbacks, the boulders, the waterfront steps and the robust native plantings, there are many unique and pioneering features, and areas of discovery for younger and older visitors.”

This project extends a greenway along the Harlem River from East 139th Street to East 142nd Street, about a quarter of a mile. It provides a link between the existing Harlem River Park bikeway to the south, which runs from E. 139th to E. 135th Street, with another new segment bikeway between E. 142nd and E. 145th Street, just completed by EDC. Developed via the “Designing the Edge” program in partnership with Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, Harlem River Park Taskforce and NYCEDC, Harlem River Park is a prototype for reconstructing urban seawalls with shorelines of high recreational and habitat value.

“Coordinating the two phases between EDC and Parks presented a rare but terrific opportunity to reinforce and connect, creating a series of water edges that incorporate floodplain benefits, habitat for fish and shellfish, and improved conditions for water recreation,” said designer Marcha Johnson.

The permeable nature of the gabions allows for the river and rainwater to filter through, creating an ecologically and environmentally friendly edge. The porous, rocky surface provides a very productive habitat for marine critters and microorganisms that clean and filter the river water. Oyster shells added to the front six inches of the gabion, create a veritable magnet for mollusks and other filter-feeding aquatic creatures.

Additional park features include a reconstructed boulder revetment with cut stone steps for public seating right on the water’s edge. Safety railings along the entire waterfront protect children from wandering to the water’s edge, with gates allowing access to adults. Steps down to the water’s edge will allow for easy put-in of hand-carried boats. A bikeway and pedestrian walkway will merge to form a single greenway where the site narrows, lined with benches, stone walls, boulders, lawns and plantings. In addition, decorative fencing and community-inspired artwork will provide aesthetic interest and local flavor to this new park.


“I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.”

Eleanor Roosevelt
(1884 – 1962)

Park Information

Directions to Harlem River Park

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