American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Student Awards
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eRiver Park.
Community and environmental concerns are seen and spoken in a park that physically responds.
Outfalls emit sewage into NY waters during a rain event.



eRiver Park
Laryssa M. Stecyk, Student ASLA
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Faculty Advisors: Peter Trowbridge, FASLA; Dan Krall, FASLA; Deni Ruggeri

"This project was very insightful in its attempt to deal with the combined sewer and stormwater issues currently polluting the east river. An incredibly important topic for cities across our nation and around the world."

— 2008 Student Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement:

eRiver Park NYC: Re-framing the dialog between a dense urban condition and its waterfront through formal, ecological, digital and social architectures. This design envisions a series of pocket parks that offer dynamic community interactions and foster the discourse on social and environmental responsibility. eRiver Park is manifested as a play between an interactive digital museum focused on community memory and an intensive water treatment system that doubles as an outdoor waterfront park.

Project Narrative:

New York City is undergoing a waterfront renaissance. This marks a shift in the image of the city from one that is defined by the fabric of its urban forms to an image that will embrace its environment both in planning and as an identity. The environmental ideology has become a standard by which cities measure their status in the global market. The image that New York City will embody is stated in PlanNYC, a city planning document endorsed by Mayor Bloomberg. It includes plans that will amount to a cleaner city, but also one that turns its focus to the waterfront. One of the flagship visions is a closed circuit Manhattan Greenway that will encircle the island. The success of this green ring is contingent upon both the quality of its amenity and the sense of place it embodies for the population. eRiver Park presents an opportunity to physically close this green loop, provide continuous flow of access to a high quality amenity and create a uniquely responsive place that reflects and reinforces community identity on local and global scales.

Located between 54th and 62nd street on the east side of Manhattan, the space sits as a remnant road bed between the East River and FDR drive while passing under the Queensborough Bridge. This nonplace is currently defined by the weave of its surrounding systems. Most notably, the adjacent East River which is a tidal estuary that connects Long Island Sound to the New York/New Jersey Harbor as well as the surrounding Manhattan community.

The East River is currently in a highly polluted state. Its estuarine population is sparse and contaminated (DEP warns against eating more than one fish a month caught in the river) and the water is unsafe for swimming. A major contributing factor to this pollution is the existence of a combined sewer system in the city. As a result, sewage overflows into the East River approximately once a week, or in any rainfall event of more than 0.1 inches.

One formula for achieving a successful waterfront park can be derived by looking at the systems that are currently in the way of this vision. The current state of imbalance consists of existing asymmetries that materialize as barriers, discomforts and hazards. These include an unhealthy amount of polluted water and also a social detachment from the public space. These imbalances can be realized as the chemistry of a highly energetic and unique space. This potential can act as an impetus for the exchange and subsequent encouragement of flow in a contemporary urban context. The focus of the eRiver park
intervention will therefore be on the relationship between waters (polluted and non-polluted) and the community.

Design Intent
Using the potential of imbalance, users will experience periods of detachment from the site both physi¬cally and cognitively. This fluctuating relationship to the site will create value in the way the site is perceived as constantly changing. The intention is also to link to the Manhattan Greenway and provide armatures for increasing social capital on-site.
eRiver Park park provides the opportunity to both clean and give access to the East River while involv ing the public through experience and education. This design proposes to bring more pollution to the site with intent to mitigate the water. The filtering process is designed by looking at two existing forms of water treatment, a saltwater treatment wetland and the subsurface sand filter treatment train. The idea is to bring the river directly into the site, treat it and give it back to the public as a clean, educational amenity. At the same time, a forum for exchange of public thought is provided in the form of a digital museum.

Design Program
Program intends to weave infrastructural and cultural uses as well as blur the boundaries between public and private communication. Zones of detachment manifest in physical and emotional forms as a way to increase value and heighten awareness. Physical detachment is controlled by access to a variety of pocket parks. These small intimate spaces are separated from the main park by channels that are capable of receiving an artificial tide. Partitions within the channel allow multiple variations of park access as water may be directed to flood specific locations. When water is not flooding the channel, users can easily walk across and enjoy the pocket parks. Accessibility to these verdant lounges is choreographed to provide a fluctuating park experience on a daily basis.

Emotional detachment is facilitated via the “me-museum”, a physically experienced digital community forum. This space is dedicated to providing armature for temporary introspection in the form of “diary cubes”. The museum spans the upper and lower decks of an existing remnant structure leftover from FDR reconstruction. Entrance to the park is experienced as a series of ramps and digital screens. “Diary” entries from the local community are displayed both as text and video feed. Park users may choose to add their entries to the archive of video blogs and over time a bank of memories is collected and accessed remotely over the Internet. These temporary moments of introversion will enhance a subsequent bond to the greater community as people share in the collective museum experience. Moreover, the strength of a “collective” voice gives power back to the community.

The cleansing aspects of eRiver Park are intended to serve as a flagship for future waterfront devel¬opments while providing a clean water park for the community to enjoy. The treatment consists of an enclosed mangrove community center, a saltwater marsh and subsurface sand filters. Although the amount of polluted water running through the system is negligible at the river scale, the educational impact is profound. Clean river water is revealed at the north end of the park in a display of interactive water fountains and splash pools. In winter, users can ice skate on the water pocket park and enjoy the rivers edge view of Manhattan and the Queensborough Bridge.


Access, increasing value through intermittent exposure.
Hybrid. Verdant pocket park and subsurface water treatment.
Pocket filter.
Digital interaction.
Connecting globally and locally, moments of recorded introspection collect and strengthen a sense of community.
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