$348M restoration of Riverside Park is part of largest investment in 90 years

Posted On Thu, May 6, 2021 By

Posted On Thu, May 6, 2021 By In Morningside Heights, Upper West Side , Urban Design

Photo of Riverside Park by Momos on Wikimedia

The city announced this week plans to provide $348 million in funding for the rehabilitation of major infrastructure in Riverside Park, marking one of the largest investments at the waterfront park since the 1930s. The project restores the “overbuild,” a series of bridge structures built over the Amtrak tunnels between West 72nd and West 123rd Streets. The deteriorated structure has damaged pathways and affected the park’s usability, according to the city.

“A recovery for all of us means investing in our green spaces,” de Blasio said. “Riverside Park is a New York City gem and I’m proud this investment will keep the park going strong for generations to come.”

Underneath the park is a man-made structure built in the 1930s that covers Amtrak train tunnels below ground. The outdated infrastructure and drainage systems have resulted in bad flooding, possibly impacting the tunnel, also known as the Freedom Tunnel, below ground.

The three-mile Freedom Tunnel was first built by Robert Moses 90 years ago to expand park space for Upper West Side residents. It was used for freight trains until 1980 when its operations stopped. As 6sqft previously reported, the tunnel later became a place of shelter for homeless New Yorkers and served as a blank canvas for graffiti artists. The tunnel reopened in 1991 for Amtrak use.

According to the Riverside Park Conservancy, “failures” in the overbuild structure have damaged pathways, limited access for vehicles, and “created a condition of disrepair” in the park. Additional details and a timeline are expected to be released during the design process, but the city expects to need to conduct additional inspections and temporary stabilization work.

The new funding adds to the $300 million already invested by the de Blasio administration for projects at the park, including the reconstruction of the West 79th Street Rotunda and Boat Basin and new pathways and staircases throughout the park. An additional $11.5 million has been invested in updating the park’s drainage systems.

“The City is committing well over half a billion dollars to restoring Riverside Park’s structural core, the largest investment in the park since the 1930s,” Dan Garodnick, President of Riverside Park Conservancy. “This enormous investment in the park’s fundamental infrastructure will ensure it is there for New Yorkers to enjoy for generations to come.”

Constructed between 1937 and 1941, Riverside Park features a unique four-level design and offers several spots for recreational activities. It was designated a scenic landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1980.

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