Eyes on the Street: The Greenway on the Upper East Side is Basically Useless

The East Side Greenway near 101st Street has been like this for weeks. Photo: Adam Light
The East Side Greenway near 101st Street has been like this for weeks. Photo: Adam Light

The East River Greenway is literally falling apart.

Last week, Upper East Siders reported finding a “giant sinkhole” at East 77th St. on the Greenway, which has since been blocked off, prohibiting passage between 78th and 71st streets.

“We immediately secured the area and closed it off with permanent fencing to ensure patron safety while we prepare to repair the site,” said a spokesperson for the Parks Department. “We have expedited design and contracting, and work is expected to begin in the coming weeks.”

But that’s not the only Upper East Side stretch of the Greenway that’s in disarray. Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris shared part of his morning ride on Monday morning, showing the poor conditions further north, at around  101st Street.

Harris, ever the savvy activist, put the conditions in perspective:

“Can you imagine such a poorly constructed and maintained project impacting cars?” he asked rhetorically.

We sent reporter Adam Light to the scene, and here’s what he found:

At East 101st Street

The fallen fence that Harris noticed lies in the middle of the pathway.

Photo: Adam Light

The barrier is presumably intended to protect cyclists and pedestrians from the sinkhole on the left, but it has fallen over, leaving it as a nuisance with unclear purpose. Now, people must navigate around the barrier, which takes up a significant portion of the road space. Some pedestrians choose to walk on the grass at right, instead of dealing with the path.

When asked about the conditions, one user, Brett T. put it simply: “Conditions? They stink.”

The Parks Department said it would reinforce the fencing with barricades.

We checked the next day and sure enough — the fence was fixed, but the greenway is still basically useless:

Photo: Adam Light
Photo: Adam Light

At East 93rd Street

Another sinkhole!

Photo: Adam Light
Photo: Adam Light






This hole is closed off to protect pedestrians, but it still inhibits road space, and there is no information on when it will be fixed. Walking up this roadway, a pedestrian will see many blocked-off areas, which does not indicate a high level of safety. According to Leo, who has been walking on the Greenway for 50 years, “It started deteriorating a long time ago, they just don’t act quickly.”

At 77th Street

not sure what is happening here
Photo: Adam Light

This is the aforementioned “giant” sinkhole, which has necessitated blocking off the Greenway for several blocks. Many signs along the way remind pedestrians and cyclists that they must exit at 78th Street. A pedestrian, who would not give me his name, did not expect any of this to change any time soon.

“We have a lot of other problems to solve before we get our East River sidewalk back,” he said.

Here’s what it looks like from across the FDR Drive, in John Jay Park. Notice how the spacing is allotted.

Photo: Adam Light
Photo: Adam Light

The sinkhole takes up the entire width of the East River Greenway, which is only a mere fraction of the size of the FDR Drive. The cars here get at least six lanes, while pedestrians normally get one measly sidewalk, that has now been taken out of commission. When the infrastructure fails, pedestrians must take the hit, while cars speed by unimpeded.

Some local residents have taken refuge on the benches between the first barricade and the actual fence at 77th Street.

Photo: Adam Light
Photo: Adam Light


The East River Greenway is supposed to be a place for neighborhood residents to hang out.

“A lot of people come down here to jog and walk and just relax,” said one user, who gave the name Leo.

But if they want to do those things now, they’re faced with detours and safety hazards that make for a decidedly non-relaxing experience. And as Harris pointed out, the cars on the FDR remind them that some methods of transportation receive priority and their users don’t face the same challenges.