Fitness area to be built under East 78th Street foot bridge/Google
Fitness area to be built under East 78th Street foot bridge/Google

Dedicated Fitness Area & Equipment Coming to the East River Esplanade

MANHATTAN – Born out of necessity in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, the East River Esplanade has become an even more popular place to workout on the Upper East Side. Now, the esplanade is set to get a major upgrade that’s includes an outdoor fitness area with brand new equipment located under the ramp to a busy foot bridge across the FDR Drive.

Exercise equipment including pull up bars, vertical chest press, parallel bars, sit-up bench and an arm bike will all be stationed underneath the ramp to the East 78th Street pedestrian bridge— which will have a new cushioned surface for working out, like those typically found in park play area. 

Fitness area to be built under East 78th Street foot bridge/Google
Fitness area to be built under East 78th Street foot bridge/Google

Details on the new project, which will be accessible to those with disabilities,  were revealed during Community Board 8’s Parks and Waterfront committee meeting last week, where representatives of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation laid out their plans to overhaul the currently unused space.

ALSO READ | Smash & Grab Crew Swipes $40k in Luxury Bags from Upper East Side Boutique 

“Putting it under the ramp gives it some it some shelter, shade from the sun and also a little bit of protection from the rain,” said Andy Moore of Quinnell Rothschild, the landscape architecture firm hired to design the esplanade improvements.

“Which is good for the equipment and also gives the people exercising an opportunity to step off the main path and be in their own kind of space,” Moore added.

New fitness equipment will be installed under foot bridge ramp/Community Board 8
New fitness equipment will be installed under foot bridge ramp/Community Board 8

At the meeting, neighbors raised concerns about everything from the equipment to get damaged by the elements to the potential for the space to attract homeless encampments, as well as worries over a lack of lighting in the area after dark. 

ALSO READ | Rent Guidelines Board Recommend Biggest Rent Hikes in Almost a Decade

“I’d like to emphasize the need for lighting… and the security camera, just to make sure it’s a safe space everyone can use,” said Felice Farber, Co-Chair of Community Board 8 Parks and Waterfront committee.

Improvements planned for the East River Esplanade
Improvements planned for the East River Esplanade/Community Board 8

Neighbors also raised concerns about a chain link fence that will separate FDR Drive traffic from the fitness area as a safety measure, because it will do nothing to mitigate the traffic noise or vehicle exhaust for exercisers. 

A representative for NYC Parks points out that due to the fitness equipment, there is no space to install a planter, wall or any other barrier thicker than a chain link fence.

ALSO READ | Neighbors Irked after Dalton School Trashes Pricey Desks Instead of Donating

The esplanade outdoor fitness area is being funded by the Hospital for Special Surgery as part of the medical center’s dramatic $150 million expansion that will build a 12-story tower on top of the FDR Drive next to the main HSS campus.

HSS Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Medical Tower Project Rendering
HSS Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Medical Tower Project Rendering

As part of the new hospital tower’s construction, HSS promised to make improvements to the crumbling East River Esplanade from 72nd to 78th Streets.

While a timeline for the installation of new fitness equipment on the esplanade was not discussed at the committee meeting, the Hospital for Special Surgery has previously said refurbishing of the East River Esplanade won’t begin until after the base of the new HSS medical tower is complete.

The tower itself is expected to open in 2024.

For updates around the clock, follow us on InstagramTwitter and Facebook

A row of South Bronx tenement buildings held a mix of apartments and businesses on he ground floor, April 8, 2022

Rent Guidelines Board Recommend Biggest Rent Hikes in Almost a Decade

Green Lane Coffee brings taste of Brooklyn to the UES/Upper East Site

Green Lane Coffee Brings Taste of Brooklyn to the Upper East Side