DOT fails to provide any near-term relief from Grand Street gridlock

Sean Quinn, Assistant Commissioner for street improvement projects at NYC Department of Transportation, visited the Community Board transportation committee last night to update CB and community members on DOT’s work to solve the gridlock around Grand Street caused by car traffic heading east across the Williamsburg Bridge.

Quinn gave a short presentation outlining two possible solutions, but did not present any proposal for the committee to vote on. He suggested he would be ready to do so in two months.

Quinn first listed several small changes that have been made to improve traffic flow toward the cramped Clinton Street on-ramp to the Williamsburg Bridge, admitting that none of these changes had made any significant impact.

He then discussed two possible solutions, both of which were first presented by community members at the GSD Traffic Town Hall in January 2018:

  • Opening Delancey Street under the bridge to thru traffic from the FDR Drive to the bridge entrance, in order to bypass Grand Street.
  • Forcing Grand Street traffic past Clinton Street (to Norfolk), in order to avoid the pinch-point at Grand & Clinton.

The first suggestion, he said, had been studied more completely, and presented several big challenges, including getting NYPD and FDNY to agree to having bridge traffic pass right by their stations at Pitt and Delancey. (Quinn said that neither department had yet been contacted to get feedback.)

The second suggestion, he said, had not yet been fully explored but looked more promising from a logistics point of view — but would not be able to be implemented until construction on Norfolk was complete, perhaps two years from now.

Community members asked questions and made further suggestions for over an hour, including many that have made repeatedly over the two years that we have been pursuing a solution to the traffic problem with DOT.

District Leader Daisy Paez presented Quinn with a petition with over 1000 signatures from community members demanding a solution to the gridlock.

Tuesday 12/10: Grand Street Gridlock meeting with DOT and CB3

We’ve been at this for a couple of years, but we still haven’t seen a reasonable response from NYC Department of Transportation to address the traffic madness on Grand Street, Clinton Street, and East Broadway. Tuesday’s meeting at Community Board 3 is the next chance for us to raise our voices. Please join us!

Tuesday, December 10, 6:30 pm
Dale Jones Burch Neighborhood Center
at Henry Street Settlement
269 Henry Street
CB3 Transportation, Public Safety,
& Environment Committee

DOT has promised to release data from traffic studies, and to respond to suggestions made by community members at our Town Hall back in 2018. We need to come out in strength to this Community Board meeting to hold them to their word.

In addition, please sign this petition, started by District Leader Daisy Paez, that we are proud to co-sponsor. Petitions will be presented to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and DOT Manhattan Commissioner Ed Pincar.

City Council approves ESCRP — here’s Carlina Rivera’s statement

On Thursday, the City Council approved the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project unanimously; typically Council Members defer on Land Use bills to the representatives from the affected communities, which in this case meant Carlina Rivera, Margaret Chin, and Keith Powers.

Below is the email that Rivera sent out on Thursday, November 14:

Dear Neighbors,

For the last seven years, I have watched our community’s slow and painful recovery from the physical and emotional damage Superstorm Sandy wreaked on all of us. We are lucky that we haven’t seen a storm as bad as Sandy since then, but our good fortune has allowed many of us to forget just how vulnerable our coastal communities are to catastrophic destruction. But we know that as climate change accelerates we will face more intense storms, flooding, and destruction.

Today we voted to approve the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR) that will not only provide real protections, but also address decades of environmental inaction from our government and provide a park that will be enjoyed by future generations, not just the current one.

Over a year ago, I moved forward with negotiations thinking of the many injustices our community has faced, from the FDR Drive built by Robert Moses with no concept of its environmental impacts, the lead lined apartments in our NYCHA campuses that have still not been repaired, and the mold in so many of our buildings that was exacerbated after the waters of Hurricane Sandy flooded our homes.

That is why the agreement we reached is so important for our communities. It not only protects us for the next 100 years, but phases in construction to keep our open space accessible while creating a world-class park with new ball fields, tennis courts, pedestrian bridges that better accommodate our neighbors with disabilities, and a revitalized amphitheater that is so important to our cultural celebrations.

With the approval of this plan we are also bringing a long list of community improvements to 17 other local park spaces and six NYCHA campuses, creating new partnerships with community gardens, extending hours at school recreation sites, and building new barbecue areas. We’re voting to expand pedestrian and bike-focused infrastructure, with commitments for new protected bike lanes in Alphabet City and the expansion of closed-street programming that includes pocket parks. And we’re planning for the future with both a new disaster-preparedness campaign for our front-line residents and a commitment to study the future of the FDR in a world that must include reduced vehicle use and emissions.

The breadth of these investments can be seen in the many groups that have announced their support, including many who have previously expressed skepticism. We’re not just talking about elected officials, NYCHA residents, Little League Directors, or park tenants. We’re talking policy experts who were behind the original push for resiliency work in New York City, including Rebuild by Design and Regional Plan Association.

You can view a full list of both commitments secured and community supporters on my website by clicking here.

But as this project spanning three Council districts moves forward, it’s clear that the community’s trust with the City surrounding this project must continue to be repaired. I certainly understand the mistrust after decades of neglect certain neighborhoods have experienced at the hands of all levels of government.

The City, at my urging, is re-visiting the interim flood protection measures (IFPMs) they said “were not feasible” and will install temporary protections. And all analyses will be provided to the community on these measures, just as we have demanded throughout this process in order to make better informed choices.

And the City will need to respect the voices of all community members and experts who will comprise the ESCR Community Advisory Group we secured funding for. Whether they’re reporting on the city’s air quality monitoring, soil testing, construction noise mitigation, or how to incorporate new ideas and feedback into the project’s design, everyone’s voices matter and should be heard in the way I have heard them in my countless meetings with local groups and park stewards. 

We have to act fast to protect the East Side. And ESCR will not just ensure that protection, but also provide a historic investment that will help our communities reverse decades of environmental injustice. Regardless of how little or greatly involved you were in this process, I hope you will all continue to speak up about ESCR and work to make this project successful for our community and a model for the rest of our City’s resiliency work to come.

Sincerely,

Carlina Rivera

Letter to Councilmembers Rivera and Chin on ESCRP

Following last week’s vote by GSD members to recommend a “No” vote on the land use application for the East River Park flood protection plan, GSD president sent the following letter to our representatives on City Council, Carlina Rivera and Margaret Chin.

on the land use application for the East River Park flood protection plan, GSD president sent the following letter to our representatives on City Council, Carlina Rivera and Margaret Chin.

Councilmembers Rivera and Chin,

I wanted to let you know that at last week’s Grand Street Dems meeting, members voted to recommend that you vote “No” on the ULURP application for the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project.

The City has resisted too many of the community’s recommendations for changes to the plan, and has left too many questions unanswered about how its preferred alternative was developed, and the adverse effects its plan will have on the environment and the surrounding neighborhoods.

If delay of this project spurs the City to provide immediate flood protection to the East Village and Lower East, all the better — these neighborhoods remain unprepared for a major flood even seven years after Sandy.

We appreciate that you are both well aware of criticisms of the City’s plan and have been engaged this year in negotiations with the City to adapt its plan and get to a place where a “Yes” vote makes sense. Unfortunately, the City has not been cooperative enough, and a vote is coming soon.

Given the current status of the ULURP application for ESCRP, Grand Street Dems recommends that you vote “No.”

Respectfully,
Jeremy Sherber

Challengers line up to take on Maloney in 2020

There are now four announced Democratic challengers to Rep. Carolyn Maloney, starting to make their case for why voters should oust the 26-year incumbent.

At Grand Street Dems’ fall meeting, we had a chance for brief introductions to all four challengers.

Lauren Ashcraft, Suraj Patel, Erica Vladimer, and Peter Harrison (clockwise from top left).

Learn more about the candidates:

We plan on having an endorsement meeting in January when we’ll have more time to hear from all the candidates.

Reading list for Wednesday’s meeting 🤓

Do you like to come prepared for a good civics forum? Then take a look at these helpful documents that lay out the options we’ll be asked to vote on:

  • Here’s a quick fact sheet on the City Charter revision proposals: FACT SHEET.
  • And here’s a longer document with more context about each part of the proposals: ABSTRACTS.

On Wednesday we’ll hear from three City Council members about the City Charter revision proposals — Brad Lander, Mark Levine, and Ben Kallos — and then vote on whether to recommend Yes or No votes to our neighbors.

10/16 at 7:00 pm: GSD Fall Meeting

Our fall meeting is a big one — please join us!

We’ll meet FOUR Democratic challengers to Rep. Carolyn Maloney.

We’ll hear from THREE members of City Council about the City Charter revision proposals on this November’s ballot.

We’ll vote on a new East Side Resiliency resolution — should our representatives vote YES or NO?

And we’ll vote for new GSD officers for the next year (president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer).

GSD Fall Meeting
October 16, 7:00 pm
Seward Coop Community Room
266 East Broadway

10/3 at 8:00 am: Council District 1 Participatory Budgeting Idea Storming

Manny Cantor Center, 197 East Broadway
Thursday, October 3, 8:00 – 10:00 am

Manny Cantor Center is hosting a morning idea-storming session with Councilmember Margaret Chin for CD1’s very first Participatory Budgeting process, where ordinary citizens (that’s you!) get to propose — and then vote on — neighborhood projects to receive City funding.

The process starts now with collecting ideas, and runs through vote week in April 2020 when any resident age 11 and up can cast a ballot for their favorite project.

(If you can’t participate in person, add ideas and comments at ideas.pbnyc.org.)

Councilmember Carlina Rivera’s Testimony at Public Hearing on East Side Coastal Resiliency Project

September 17, 2019

Thank you for allowing me to submit this testimony on the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, or ESCR.

It’s been nearly seven years since Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New York City, but the effects that storm had on the Lower East Side and the Five Boroughs can still be seen and felt today. Our neighborhood and many others are still recovering and rebuilding from the $19 billion in damage and economic losses that Sandy wrought. And for the families of the 43 New Yorkers who lost their lives, their lives will never truly be fully healed.

As a former community organizer who led the emergency response to Sandy and participated in the Rebuild by Design program, and today as a Council Member who is responsible for the safety of over 160,000 New Yorkers, I understand the seriousness of the crisis we face from climate change and increased sea levels and storm surge. I also understand that $335 million of the budget for this project comes from federal FEMA funding that will by rule expires in 2022. If we allow those funds to disappear, this project will not be able to move forward and we will almost certainly never get that money back from a Trump administration and Congress that has continually stripped funding for state and local infrastructure projects. That is why it is imperative we get this project done quickly and correctly for our community.

Let’s be absolutely clear — this city is not living up to that second point. As Community Board 3 perfectly framed it in their resolution on this item, “the ESCR process since Fall 2018 has frayed trust in government and public agencies because of the drastic change in plan design done without community consultation, despite the needs of the community who look to their government to supply desperately needed protection of their lives and homes.”

It’s why I demanded an apology from the city, and why Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and I hired an independent consultant to review the project’s design. While I look forward to the results of this expert review from the Netherlands-based environmental consulting group Deltares, I will continue to urge the city to finally commit to other key concerns.

The most disappointing of all of these concerns is the lack of details regarding a phased-in approach to construction. When my Council colleagues and I held a hearing on this project in January, Jamie Torres-Springer, the First Deputy Commissioner at the city’s Department of Design and Construction, said we’d have more details on phased-in construction in “a few months.” It’s now September, and the city continues to drag its feet and fails to live up to its promise for honest and open communication.

Residents deserve to know all the details regarding a phased in approach and every effort must be made to ensure that residents can still enjoy sections of the park while construction continues.

In addition, our community’s elected officials called for interim flood protection measures (IPFM) during construction of ESCR. In a letter to our offices, DDC Commissioner Lorraine Grillo wrote that an “analysis of existing conditions” did not find IPFM to be an effective solution for the ESCR area. While IPFM is not designed to protect neighborhoods from Sandy-level events, they can ensure critical infrastructure remains operational during more frequent, less severe storms. The City must share the details of the analysis mentioned in their letter with our offices and with the independent reviewer to guarantee that there aren’t certain interim protection options that could be used for our community’s most important infrastructure.

Some of our other concerns that must be met include:

  • A study for long-term decking and greening of the FDR Drive.
  • A sufficient detour for users of the East River Greenway.
  • A plan to safely move the Seal Water Park sculptures to a nearby park and have them safely returned after conclusion of the project.
  • A new administrative facility with non-for-profit and community space in the new East River Park.
  • A long-term commitment to a community-approved entity to generate revenue for East River Park.
  • A temporary site for the LES Ecology Center in the surrounding neighborhood and a rebuilt and updated Center in the park when it reopens.
  • Finalizing sufficient, alternative active and passive open space mitigation and enhancements at both Parks and other city agency facilities.
  • Written confirmation that all local youth and school sports organizations will have permits near the project area at specific locations.
  • A commitment to additional barbecue areas where they are safe and do not conflict with other recreation.
  • And a hazardous material mitigation plan that goes beyond typical mitigation efforts to ensure the safety and health of all New Yorkers.

The city has recently informed our office they would make certain commitments, including the planting of 1,000 neighborhood trees and the installation of 40 bioswales beginning this fall, new lighting at six neighborhood sport fields, improvements to turf fields at six sites, new sports coatings and painting at various parks and playgrounds, enhanced barbecue areas, the conversion of the LaGuardia Bathhouse demolition area to a turf field, “spruce-ups” at 16 NYCHA park and play sites, nine new Parks staff for the neighborhood, and a commitment to keep all East River Park staff on the East Side of Manhattan, below 34th Street.

But it is hard to balance these very important measures with the continued silence from the city on the rest of our demands.

If the city wants the votes of Council Member Powers, Chin, and I when this project comes to the City Council, they can not wait until our hearings to start sharing this information. They need to address these concerns now so that our community can assess all factors along with the independent review that is slated to be completed by September 23.