East River Esplanade Renovations and Enhancement

Architectural rendering of East River EsplanadeIn addition to the new campus construction above the FDR Drive, the University will also undertake the complete renovation and enhancement of the East River Esplanade from just south of E. 64th Street to the centerline of E. 68th Street. The design was developed with the participation of Community Board 8 representatives and other members of the local community.

The design is meant to enhance the experience of Esplanade users by providing a clearly defined pedestrian and bike path and landscaping that increases the number of trees and plantings and opportunities for seating. It will include hardy, attractive greenery, native or adapted trees appropriate to the Esplanade’s harsh microclimate, new pavement and hardscape materials, a variety of seating such as benches, high- and low-back lounge seats, and seat walls located to maximize views, and pedestrian lighting to provide a safe and renewed waterfront experience.

A new sound barrier (eight feet high on the FDR Drive side) will also be installed, running the length of the project along the FDR Drive. Additionally, the East River Seawall will be rehabilitated and repaired for the length of the project. The design will incorporate innovative, environmentally sustainable approaches to storm-water collection and will build on the existing urban waterfront ecology through the use of natural systems.


  • The Esplanade will remain open for use by pedestrians throughout the construction process.
    UPDATE: The esplanade has reopened as of April 18, 2018. Due to circumstances beyond the university’s control, the Esplanade was closed between 64th Street and 68th Street in November to accommodate an unavoidable change in construction plans. For more information and updates, see Construction Updates.
  • Preparations for construction will begin in the summer of 2015. To enable renovations of the Esplanade and to keep it open to pedestrians as much as possible, all trees, planters, and furnishing must be removed for the duration of construction. When completed, the new Esplanade will be landscaped with a greater number of trees and plantings than before.
  • After reopening in April 2018, fencing is required to separate the construction sites from the Esplanade. This will narrow the Esplanade, but maintain a minimum 8 foot wide passage for pedestrian traffic.
  • Enhancements to the Esplanade will be completed in the summer of 2018.
  • Construction of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation–David Rockefeller River Campus will start in the summer of 2015 and is anticipated to be completed in the spring of 2019.

The University is establishing a $1 million endowment to maintain the landscaping of the esplanade in perpetuity and has contributed $150,000 to Friends of the East River Esplanade, a conservancy devoted to encouraging the restoration and renovation of the full length of the esplanade.


East River Esplanade Renovations and EnhancementIn addition to the new campus construction above the FDR Drive, the University will also undertake the complete renovation and enhancement of the East