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NEW YORK CITY-Gov. David Paterson joined Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Mayor Michael Bloomberg on a hot and humid Tuesday morning to break ground on the first phase of a new East River Waterfront Esplanade and Piers Project in Lower Manhattan. Bloomberg said the future park would serve as a place where residents can “hopefully enjoy cool breezes on days like this one.”

Despite the heat and pall of a recession, smiles were on display by three of the state’s most powerful politicians as they joined other downtown civic and political leaders in the shadow of the financial district to unveil what Paterson called “a transformative event.” Agreeing with the governor, Silver said, “I know how much this project will provide my city.” A member of five generations of Lower East Side Silvers, the speaker emphasized the importance of projects that provide future generations incentives to stay and live in the city.

If all goes according to plan, the $148-million phase one of the project stands to turn a two-mile stretch of waterfront stretching from the Battery Maritime Building to Pier 35 by 2011 into a greenway that will rival those on the West Side. The project will extend the esplanade between the Battery Maritime building and Old Slip out over the water, allowing for widened bike and pedestrian lanes. Drawing on the East Side’s history, Pier 15, at Maiden Lane, will be re-constructed as a “two-level” pier like those that lined the waterfront throughout the 19th Century.

But on this go-round, the upper level of the pier will feature landscaped lawns and seating for residents and tourists while the lower level showcases maritime uses that include boat docking facilities on three sides and a maritime educational component. Pier 35 at Rutgers Slip will also be renovated, landscaped and opened to the public.

According to a statement from the mayor’s office, plans call for several enclosed pavilions to be constructed at “strategic locations” in the area for commercial, food, recreation related, community or other innovative uses.

The esplanade project’s came from SHoP Architects PC along with Ken Smith Landscape Architects and Tillotson Design Associates. Jacobs Engineering is construction manager and design engineering is by a joint venture of HDR/Arup.

Conceived in 2002, the project was part of the Mayor’s Vision for Lower Manhattan that incorporates the Downtown East River Waterfront Concept plan developed by Community Board 1 and the Alliance for Downtown New York along with ideas from Community Board 3′s East River Greenway Community Design Workshop.

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