Spiral bridge ramp connecting to street grid.
Bridge bike/pedestrian path along FDR Drive.
Fishing pier portion of bridge path.
Spaces for quiet contemplation.
Section through river and river bank/artificial reef/tidal marsh.
CLOSE THE GAP COMPETITION
Manhattan — East River
Co-sponsored by d3space.org and Transportation Alternatives – 2011
The Manhattan Waterfront Greenway is an existing 32-mile bike and pedestrian path that was intended to circumnavigate Manhattan Island. In its present form, there is a “gap” on the East Side from 38th Street to 60th Street where travelers must be redirected onto city streets. This competition sought to “close the gap” by means of a new bike/pedestrian pathway on the river side of the FDR Drive. Since there is almost no land there, the challenge was to invent a way to travel on the water — somehow.
The first step was to understand the “architecture” of the East River. The East River is in fact a tidal estuarine strait, rather than a traditional “river” — which means that it is a combination of fresh water and brackish salt water rising and falling with the tides. I envisioned a softening of its “hard” edge — an edge created by the ugly bulkheads of an ever-encroaching steel and concrete city. The submission is entitled Soft-Engineering the East River — Creating a Living Shoreline. The organizational concept was to construct an artificial reef along the riverbank, as has been done in many locations in this country; however, never along a shoreline in this manner. The reef’s surface would be covered with layers carefully designed to create a new wetland marsh. Through and along this marsh would meander a space-framed bridge bike/pedestrian pathway accessed by ramp-to-street connections. As the project site encompasses the riverfront area of the United Nations, I envisioned a unique expression of the path there to form a large curved promenade jutting out into the water — which would have the additional function of a fishing pier/tourist attraction.
Inspiration was found in the theme of “passage” inherent in Albert Ledner’s Maritime Union Building (now known as the O’Toole Building of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital.) Its most prominent forms are the nautical semicircular cutouts in the facade and the curved glass block ground floor walls of the “hiring halls.” Of Ledner’s circular forms, it was stated that, “… he designs in circles. It’s functional and expressive. [The hiring halls] are designed to allow for no angles — everybody is equal here, and circles pretty much express that.” Those glass block “hiring halls” were originally places of passage, places of gathering, places for socializing, places for discussion. As the focal point of the battle against AIDS in New York, the physical form of St. Vincent’s Hospital and its iconic O’Toole Building (described as having “exuberant forms”) became spiritually connected to all touched by the AIDS epidemic in NY. It symbolically represents the passage of thousands of AIDS patients and caregivers through its doors and also, for many, the passage through life to the beyond. This design seeks to capture the memories of lives lost and altered — their beauty, their exuberance, their vitality, as well as offering a place to gather, discuss, and commemorate.
This new tidal marsh takes advantage of the estuarine aspect of the East River. My proposal in effect, re-creates the long-lost marshy edges of the strait and is based on extensive research on reefs, marshes, estuaries, and the flora and fauna inhabiting them. The reef/marsh would also perform vital environmental functions such as providing a filtration system for urban storm water runoff, creating a storm buffer for wave surges, improving the quality of river water/sediment, and expanding habitat for fish, crustaceans, and birds by 23 acres.