After years of delays, in 2019 the East River waterfront esplanade at Pier 35 finally opened to the public. Pier 35 provides much-needed public space on the water just south of the Lower East Side in Manhattan facing Brooklyn. The new park anchors the northern tip of the East River Waterfront Esplanade, a two-mile-long stretch of land owned by the city and made possible by a grant from the New York State Division of Coastal Resources.
While the public only recently gained access to the space, the first phase of the project called ECO Park at Pier 35 included the installation of sloping precast concrete surfaces, textures, and rockeries in the tidal zone.
A habitat restoration feature for mollusks was created to replicate the characteristics of the original East River shoreline. Designed specifically for mussels, the pier descends into the river along a slope that meets the daily rise and fall of the tides.
Rocks on Blocks
This unique project featured the fabrication of 30 large, custom shaped precast concrete blocks weighing as much as 118,000-lbs each. Produced in The Fort Miller Company’s Easton, NY facility, Fort Miller delivered the precast blocks via flatbed trailer to the Port of Coeymans where they were placed on barges and delivered 120 miles south to the project site.
Fort Miller described the process of “drilling holes through the distinct handpicked rocks as each rock was marked and had its own special place on the grey precast concrete blocks we cast with custom forms”.
After their trip down the Hudson River the blocks were submerged in the East River. The precast block assembly created a 66-ft long concrete bed called “Mussel Beach” that fashioned an artificial habitat designed to promote river ecology.
Once assembled, the precast blocks incorporated sloped surfaces, special textures, and meticulously placed rocks attached to the concrete that attract mussels. The weight of the precast concrete keeps them weighted down in place.
While delivery and installation of the precast blocks took 2 weeks in 2012, the rest of the Pier 35 project was delayed several times due to Hurricane Sandy and coordination between city agencies.
Ultimately the precast concrete habitat supports the ribbed mussels that help stem erosion and filter contaminants in the marsh tides. The precast concrete restoration zone replicates the characteristics of the historic shoreline.