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People of East River Park

By Sheridan Smith

Nov. 21st, 2021

It is difficult to go 20 feet in the East River Park without seeing the words "Save This Park". In light of climate-related threats, Lower East Side community members and park-goers are asking: what is to be done with East River Park? People Of East River Park is a photo project created through engaging with community members and inquiring into the past, present, and future state of the park. 


What is East River Park?

The East River Park was first opened in July of 1939. The park runs along the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive (FDR Drive) and the East River from East 12th downs to Montgomery Street. Before it was made into the beautiful riverside community space it is today, the waterfront played a crucial role in the development of New York City as a safe harbor for numerous shipping interests in the early colonial period, lined with slaughterhouses, power stations, railroad yards and glass factories. Now, East River Park is a beautiful, go-to leisure and activity spot for community members on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Almost 10 years after the destruction brought by Hurricane Sandy, New York City has decided to move forward with the plan to protect the park and the community from flooding. The City plans to bury the park, and rebuild it to function as an 8 foot barricade. The City, however, dropped the initial plans it had made in collaboration with community organizations. Save Our Park is one initiative that advocates for preservation of the park by revisiting that previous plan. 

Click the gallery to view images:

Photographer Statement

We are on the precipice of severe climate crisis, and the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project is a go. On Monday, December 6th, park construction began south of Stanton Street- it’s all happening now. This photo essay is intended to document the state of the park pre-construction and at the moment of the beginning of construction, to ensure that through this process the City and community do not forget the love that people have for this park. 

Considering the City's decision to reject the initial plan made in collaboration with community members, I want to shift the attention back onto East-River Park goers. I want to spark interest in the viewer, leading them to action, whether it be through engaging with the park, the Save Our Park initiative, or otherwise. 

People Of East River Park is not intended to be didactical in nature, but rather to simply say, “Hey, look at these people and see how they love this park”.

Ongoing Updates: January and February 2022

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