Reimagining the Waterfront: Manhattan’s East River Esplanade


CIVITAS is a nonprofit organization based in Manhattan on the Upper East Side and East Harlem. As part of their mission they seek to promote, preserve and protect residential neighborhoods that are lively and livable and, since 1981, they have been engaging the community in a discussion to help them realize the means to this end.

Among their recent efforts, they have focused their attention on the island’s eastern border at the East River Esplanade. An ideas competition hosted by CIVITAS, and judged by field experts and community members, helped to generate visions from all over the world for an updated East River waterfront. CIVITAS hosted this competition with the hopes that it will increase the public’s interest in bringing change to the continuous walkway between 60th and 125th streets; an area that is the backyard to about 350,000 people but often left out of current visionary planning discussions in New York City.

On Thursday, October 11, our studio joined Hunter Armstrong, Director of CIVITAS, for a guided tour of the CIVITAS Reimagining the Waterfront exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. The exhibit, which unfortunately closed today, displayed winning submissions and honorable mentions from the competition, with ideas ranging from smaller changes to the ecology and programming of the site, to the grand first place design which brought the river back into the city through new canals.


Winning Submission from Joseph Wood

Luckily for us, the Reimagining the Waterfront initiative does not end with the competition and the exhibit. Seeking to build upon the excitement that came out of the ideas competition, CIVITAS started conducting community visioning sessions with local community members and stakeholders to create a comprehensive vision of the two neighborhoods’ needs and desires. It is in this capacity that our studio looks forward to working with CIVITAS to accomplish what Mr. Armstrong aptly described during our tour as a “way for academic work to live beyond the studio and be practically applied.”

All submissions from the CIVITAS contest are still available on-line at



One thought on “Reimagining the Waterfront: Manhattan’s East River Esplanade

  1. Pingback: Searching for a Home | Planning for Waterfront Access in East Harlem

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