City officials on Friday began construction on a $100 million project to build a greenway on the East River between East 53rd to 61st Streets, two years after Mayor Bill de Blasio first announced that he would take the major step toward fulfilling a long sought plan of allowing New Yorkers to circumnavigate around the island of Manhattan.

In a press release, the mayor called the groundbreaking of the East Midtown Greenway "another major step forward in returning the waterfront of New York City to New Yorkers." Although the vision of a continuous path around the island of Manhattan has been in the works for decades, work on the project comes at a time when city transportation officials have been searching for more ways to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.

“Piece by piece, we are closing the biggest gaps in the East River Greenway, bringing us closer to the goal of providing cyclists with an uninterrupted protected bike path around Manhattan,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

The stretch along the East River from East 53rd to 61st Streets, which currently consists of the FDR Drive and a construction zone, marks the largest gap in the 32-mile path known as the Manhattan Greenway. Under the plan, the city will build a 40-foot-wide esplanade over the water parallel to FDR Drive. Those using the path will be surrounded by water on both sides.

All told, the project will create roughly 1.5 acres of new waterfront park space.

Rendering of East Midtown Greenway.

Additional renovations include an extension to Andrew Haswell Green Park, which borders the greenway to the north, as well as a new ADA-accessible pedestrian bridge. The city also plans to widen a space near 53rd Street to make way for environmental programming and an art installation.

Prior to the East Midtown Greenway project, the last significant gap that the city closed along the Manhattan Greenway was between 91st and 81st Streets along the Hudson River. That portion of the esplanade opened to the public in 2010. The development of the Manhattan Greenway first began under Mayor David Dinkins in 1993.

Construction is expected to be finished by 2022.