Riverside Park

The Daily Plant : Thursday, March 22, 2001


The George Cromwell Recreation Center in Staten Island, known as "the Center" to local residents, is presently undergoing a complete structural makeover in order to prevent its deterioration and collapse into the marine harbor. Hesham (The Sphinx) Elshamy is the Parks In-house Resident Engineer of the project. He is working with Martin (The Count) Christie, Director of Staten Island Construction, Andrew (Demo Man) Letterese, Deputy Director of Staten Island Construction; John (Wildcat) Natoli, Chief Engineer and the contractor, MVN Associates, Inc.

Located on Pier 6 of Staten Island, Cromwell is one of the largest and most popular recreational facilities in the city. Originally used as a port station by freight trains transporting goods to and from ships, the center now contains six basketball courts, a weight room, a crafts room, and computer facilities.

In 1994, structural failures were discovered at Cromwell. Investigation revealed that marine borers and other invertebrates were responsible for having eroded the supportive pilings of the pier, thus deteriorating its stabilizing network. When the damage was discovered, Parks had the pilings encased in concrete to a depth of at least two feet below the mud line. Until recently, this course of action appeared successful.

In the summer of 1999, Parks engineers noticed evidence of further deterioration of Cromwell's structural stability. Erosion of the mud line, attributed to a neighboring marine service's propwash, exposed unprotected pilings below the concrete to the marine borers. As a result of these findings, Parks procured a contract for the structural stabilization of the Center. The stabilizing process included running horizontal supports under the entire pier and constructing additional concrete piers. For almost a year, there was no evident change in the structural integrity of the building or its supports.

In July 2000, massive erosion was found. Cleaner waters and warmer weather conditions had stimulated marine borer activity and the pilings were estimated to be eroding at a rate of one tenth of an inch per week. Cromwell was immediately closed to the public, an emergency contract was declared, and immediate stabilization methods were taken. The pier was secured with timber pile postings and wrapped in black borer-proof plastic to prevent the total collapse of the structure into the harbor. When posting began, the 250 by 120 foot section of the deck was sinking at a rate of half an inch per day.

Stabilization activity at Cromwell is at its height. 56 concrete-filled plumb piles, and supportive batter piles have been installed. Still to be installed are 60 center piles and 30 structural steel pile caps, as well as 60 joists between the pile caps. The reconstruction will eliminate the ravaging of marine borers and the need for future structural repair. Construction hopes to have the Center prepared for partial use this spring, and the entire project completed on August 30, 2001

By Noël E. Kopa, Assistant to the Chief Engineer

(Thursday, March 30, 1988)


Since its inception in 1986, the Riverside Park Fund, a private, volunteer organization created to raise private funds from citizens, foundations, and corporations for the city's longest riverfront park, has raised approximately $178,000 and galvanized residents of the Upper Westside to participate in the care of their 323-acre neighborhood park.

"In our first year we've forged a strong working relationship with the Parks Department, especially with Riverside Park Director, Charles McKinney," said Susan F. Angevin, Executive Director of the Riverside Park Fund. "We've also found a groundswell of support from the community for this lesser known landscape masterpiece designed by Frederick Law Olmsted."


"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March."

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Directions to Riverside Park

Know Before You Go

West 79th Street Boat Basin

The 79th Street Boat Basin marina is currently closed. No vessel dockage, moorage, anchorage or launch services are available. The marina will be dredged and reconstructed to modern codes and standards. The marina is anticipated to reopen in 2025. Related inquiries may be sent to boatbasin@parks.nyc.gov

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