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Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, Manhattan

East River Drive at 81st Street June 8, 1942
Museum City of New York
Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, formerly the East River Drive, is 9.5 miles long. The FDR Drive extends from the Battery to the Triborough Bridge. The Drive is not designed to current interstate standards, therefore the FDR is closed to commercial traffic. However buses can use the highways in certain locations. Due to its antiquated design, the speed limit maximum is 40 miles per hour.

In the 1920s, calls first began for a waterfront highway began - initially being called the "Chyrstie-Forsyth Parkway."

The FDR Drive is an amalgamation of sections that were constructed in different styles.

Construction of the East River Drive began in 1934. The parkway section from East 92nd street to East 125th required ingenious methods of construction in a narrow right-of-way. A six-lane parkway was conceived by Robert Moses in the 100 foot right-of-way. This section was completed and opened in 1936.

East River Drive December 5, 1949
Library of Congress

The East River Drive was constructed as an arterial boulevard from Battery Park to East 42nd street and from East 49th to East 92nd street. The construction occurred under the direction of Manhattan Borough President Stanley Issacs. These portions opened to traffic by 1942.

The portion between East 23rd street and East 30th was land-filled with rubble of World War II bombed British cities - carried back to the United States as ballast in wartime ships. This portion was dubbed Bristol Basin at the time. Much of the Drive was constructed upon pile-supported relieving platforms.

East River Drive December 5, 1949
Library of Congress
In the 1940s calls were made for the completion of the Drive. In 1948 the portion from East 49th Street to East 92nd was converted to a controlled access parkway from a boulevard. Also in 1948, the area between East 80th street and East 90th street had a cantilevered park built above the parkway - today named Carl Schurz park.

In 1950 the Battery Park Underpass connecting the FDR with the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and West Side Highway was completed.

East River Drive December 5, 1949
Library of Congress
In 1952, the FDR drive from East 42nd street to East 49th was converted to controlled access parkway. In this portion a two level cantilever was constructed. The first level constructed, supports the FDR Drive over the East River. The second level supports the United Nations complex over the FDR Drive.

In 1954, the South Street Viaduct was completed over the existing boulevard stretching from the Battery Park Underpass to the Jackson Street in the Lower East Side.

 In 1960, the FDR Drive from East 14th Street to Jackson Street was converted from a boulevard to a controlled-access parkway.

In 1966, the FDR Drive between East 14th Street and 42nd Street was converted from boulevard to controlled-access parkway.

New Viaducts were constructed in the areas of East 23rd street, East 34th street, and East 42nd street.

East River Drive December 5, 1949
Library of Congress
From East 54th street to East 63rd street, the FDR continues covered by cantilever. The cantilevers from East 54th to East 63rd contain parks and private gardens.

New York State Department of Transportation plans to rebuild much of the FDR Drive area from East 25th street to East 42nd street to include bike lanes, and pedestrian access to the waterfront.

Tiny marine borers or "sea termites" have been feeding on the wooden pilings that support the FDR Drive. The installation of plastic shrink wrap around the wood pilings were unsuccessful in suffocating the pests. The City has recently attempted to encase pilings in concrete underwater.


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