Arts East River Waterfront is a series of collaborations in the Lower East Side, connecting residents, artists, and other art-lovers to create and enjoy art and design installations, performances, and participatory activities along the East River Waterfront.

This multi-faceted initiative expands the range of voices participating in the development of the Lower East Side Waterfront, to imagine and affect the future of Piers 42 and 35.

In 2013, we launched Paths to Pier 42 in partnership with the Lower East Side Waterfront Alliance, State Senator Daniel Squadron’s office, and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to activate Pier 42 as a temporary park with art & design projects. LMCC commissioned five artists to work in collaboration with local residents and community organizations to create community-responsive projects for the site throughout the summer months, creating a unique place where people want to go and linger — a visible and familiar gathering place that is a cultural, educational, and recreational amenity for all. Since then, we have continued to commission new artists and designers to create work specifically for Pier 42 each year. For complete information on commissioned artists and projects, visit: 

In 2014 we invited choreographers luciana achugar and Faye Driscoll to carry out performance research and showings in the community and on the Pier to inform their own practice, as well as the possible performance-related uses for Pier 42.

In 2015, we are further expanding our waterfront activities by working with iLand – interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art Nature and Dance and its founder, choreographer Jennifer Monson, to provide exploratory residencies to three interdisciplinary groups bridging art, science and ecology, working in the Lower East Side and Chinatown. The residency teams grew out of a series of workshops in 2014, and are focusing their research on the themes of water and immigration, the urban backstage, and embodied mapping. During their residencies, they will offer public engagement activities in the neighborhood to share their research and increase engagement with the waterfront.

Through these projects, we are developing a growing circle of collaborating artists and local stakeholders to celebrate and connect the vibrant voices and traditions of the Lower East Side with this valuable, new public space.

Paths to Pier 42 is a project of Good Old Lower East Side, Hester Street Collaborative, Lower East Side Ecology Center, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, in close partnership with the Lower East Side Waterfront Alliance, NY State Senator Daniel Squadron, and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation

iLAND – interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art Nature and Dance – founded by Jennifer Monson in 2004, investigates the power of dance, in collaboration with other fields, to illuminate our kinetic understanding of the world. It is a dance research organization with a fundamental commitment to environmental sustainability as it relates to art and the urban context. Their goal is to cultivate cross-disciplinary research among artists, environmentalists, scientists, urban designers, and other fields.

Pier 42 was built on the East River waterfront in 1967 as a newsprint terminal, later importing bananas for an affiliate of Dole. It was the last operating cargo pier in Manhattan, closing in 1987. Since then, the pier has been unused and inaccessible to residents nearby. Between 2008-2009 the Lower East Side Waterfront Alliance engaged community members in the Lower East Side and Chinatown in order to develop a community vision for the East River waterfront and Pier 42, creating an alternate proposal to the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC)’s plan for redevelopment.

The EDC’s plan, which included proposals for high-end uses for this public land, was not seen as responsive to community needs and had the potential to increase the pace of gentrification in the neighborhood.The community-driven plan, titled “A People’s Plan for the East River Waterfront,” presented a different vision for Pier 42, one embraced by area residents and stakeholders. Shortly afterward, initial funding was secured to kick-start the process for converting Pier 42 into public parkland, including a new “community master planning” process.

Since the long-term master planning process will take several years, the LES Waterfront Alliance and its partners, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, State Senator Daniel Squadron, and the NYC Dept of Parks & Recreation, are using art and design to catalyze and sustain public engagement around the renovation of Pier 42.

In 2013, Super Storm Sandy had a devastating impact on many waterfront communities in the tri-state area, among them, the Lower East Side, causing flood damage and utilities outages that continue to impact area residents and businesses. As a result, numerous planning initiatives at the federal, state and local levels are currently underway to help create a more resilient waterfront and to better protect this culturally diverse and vibrant community.

Matthews Nielsen Landscape Architects is currently working on the design of the future waterfront park on Pier 42, with an emphasis on providing passive recreation space, soft barriers to storm surges, marine habitat, and ecological education opportunities. A conceptual masterplan was approved by a Community Board 3 sub-committee and the Public Design Commission of the City of New York in early January 2014, and phase 1 of construction may begin as early as 2016.

While Pier 42 awaits capital funding, the nearby Pier 35 is currently under construction as a destination pier with landscaped open space and an ecohabitat restoration project, called the EcoPark, with completion anticipated for summer 2015. While East River Waterfront redevelopment has been underway for more than a decade, the area spanning Pier 42 and Pier 35 forms the remaining undeveloped piece linking East River Park to the north, and the recently completed edges of the East River Esplanade to the south.

If you’re an art-lover, or looking for something to do on a sunny afternoon this summer, plan to join us on Pier 42. There will be art, design and ecology projects, workshops, family activities, picnics, and performances for you to experience and enjoy.

Pier 42 is a great place to spend a morning or afternoon with friends, family, or a book. You’re welcome there anytime between May and November, dawn to dusk.

Share the experience of Pier 42 by bringing someone new with you the next time you visit the Pier, or post photos on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (#PathsToPier42)