Borough President requests 60-day delay for vote on East Side Coastal Resiliency plan

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on Monday formally requested a 60-day delay for the City Planning Commission’s [CPC] hearing and final vote to approve the city’s preferred plan for East River Park.

Grand Street Democrats passed a resolution in May requesting a delay in the project so that several important aspects can be revisited. Since then we have been meeting with our elected officials, including Brewer, to encourage them to support community goals to improve the plan. Read GSD’s resolution on the draft Environmental Impact Statement here.

Local Community Boards and elected officials have all largely lined up in support of the city’s preferred plan to protect the East Village and Lower East Side from storm surges and rising sea levels, but with huge caveats, concerns, and still-unanswered questions about the accuracy of the city’s 3.5-year time table, contingencies for immediate flood protection, and more.

Brewer’s request indicates that one priority for the delay is to “consult with independent environmental experts” to make sure that the city’s preferred plan to level the park and pour 8-9 feet of landfill from Montgomery to 23rd Street has the support of experts in the field.

Brewer’s July 8 letter automatically triggers the delay she requests, though it is up to NYC agencies and other elected officials to move forward on the reasons for the request.

Thank you for another chance to serve as your District Leaders

Hey neighbors, GSD co-founders, LES originals and newcomers,

It’s an honor and oh-so-welcome bright spot in our current events landscape to announce that we get to start our second term as your Democratic District Leaders TODAY.

Many of you stood outside, knocked on doors, and successfully collected more than enough signatures to get us on the ballot — thank you! And because we were unopposed this year, we have been low-key re-elected without the need for polling sites to materialize in the usual places. (It is Primary Day in some of NYC, but in AD65 Part A there are no contested races.)

We are so grateful for your continuing trust in us as your District Leaders, and for your enthusiasm and support for Grand Street Democrats, our not-quite-two-year-old neighborhood political club.

Two years ago, we didn’t know if GSD would be able to emerge from the shadow of the political machine we defeated. It turns out that AD65-A is a hotbed of political activism and community leaders brimming with experience, energy and a thirst for progress. You all have taught and inspired us so much in such a short time. And now that we have put down roots, we’re ready to grow and branch out, with your ideas, questions, problems, and solutions guiding us.

So, to recontextualize a quote from Hamilton: What Comes Next?

We’ll get our first glimpse of the 2020 presidential candidates tomorrow night with our Democratic Debate Watch Party, 8:30 at La Flaca. And with monthly debates on the horizon, we hope to make this a recurring event (want to coordinate our next GSD watch party? EMAIL US!)

We will continue to bring in city & state officials to our GSD meetings (mark your calendars for our Summer Meeting on August 14). Importantly, we want to give you all plenty of chances to meet the candidates for city-wide elections in 2021 (Mayor! City Council! Borough President! District Attorney!).

And what do you want to do, see, and discuss? Please catch us on the street or on email and speak up. We wouldn’t be here without you!

In solidarity,
Carole Laskow & Lee Berman, Democratic District Leaders

6/26 at 8:30 pm: Democratic Debate Watch Party

Is it 2020 yet?

Booker, Castro, de Blasio, Delaney, Gabbard, Inslee, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Ryan, and Warren make up the ten candidates selected for the stage Wednesday. (Another ten candidates who qualified will have their chance the next night.)

The first debate of the Democratic primary is airing Wednesday, June 26 — join GSD members at a debate Watch Party at La Flaca on Grand Street at Suffolk.

Democratic Debate Watch Party
Wednesday, June 26
8:30 pm
La Flaca, Grand Street and Suffolk

Monday 6/3: East River Park Town Hall

The City has a $1.4 billion plan to bulldoze East River Park and add 8-10 feet of landfill in order to protect the East Village and Lower East Side from rising sea level and storm surges. The park would be closed for at least 3-1/2 years starting in 2020.

  • Existing landscape bulldozed.
  • Amphitheater razed.
  • Entire park raised 8-10 feet with landfill.
  • Playing fields and facilities rebuilt.
  • New pedestrian bridges.

In order for residents to learn about the plan and possible alternatives, and to ask questions directly of the City officials in charge of the project, Grand Street Democrats is hosting a Town Hall next week:

Monday, June 3, 7:00 pm
Manny Cantor Center, 197 East Broadway

If you have time, there is material available online for you to review before the Town Hall:

Please try to make it. This project will have a huge impact on our neighborhood.

GSD Resolution on Party Registration Deadline

Adopted at regular meeting 5/16/19.

Grand Street Democrats supports New York State Committee Members in their efforts to move the deadline for Democratic party registration for voters to 25 days before any primary.

Update: One of our State Committee Members, Chris Marte, let us know this morning that he will be voting for the “Let All Democrats Vote Amendment” at today’s State Committee meeting. He sent us a fuller explanation of the rules change, which is included below:

This amendment would change the “Primary Participation” section (Part Two, Section A, 2) of the NYSDC 2020 Delegate Selection Plan and would guarantee that all New York voters who apply to join the Democratic Party at least 25 days before the 2020 Presidential Primary get to vote in that Primary. As currently written, this section states that participation in the Presidential Primary will be limited to New York voters who have enrolled in the Democratic Party by October 11, 2019, which is over six months in advance of the Presidential Primary, and the longest waiting period in the entire nation. 

It is critical that we pass this amendment for several reasons:

  • The draft delegate selection plan does not comply with the DNC Delegate Selection Rules.
    • The “Primary Participation” section of our delegate selection plan does not meet the requirement that State Parties are to do everything in their power to guarantee a change of party enrollment deadline no earlier than the voter registration deadline of 25 days in New York.
    • DNC Rule 2, Section J requires State Parties to ensure “an open and inclusive process” in the selection of convention delegates by “revising State Party rules and encouraging administrative rules, legislation, or considering litigation to… allow voters to switch parties at least as late as the deadline for registering to vote.”
    • DNC Rule 2, Section C requires State Parties to take “all feasible steps” to eliminate excessively long waiting periods for voters to change their enrollment status, including revising Party rules.
  • If the State Committee does not amend its delegate plan and fix this problem, it could cost NY delegates and money.
    • DNC Rule 21, Section C(6) states that the DNC may take action against State Parties that have “failed or refused to comply” with the DNC rules by reducing the size of the NY Delegation to the National Convention, diminishing the voice of New York Democrats in the nomination process.
    • DNC Rule 22, Section C gives the DNC the power to force non-complying State Parties to pay for a private selection of delegates, which could cost the party millions of dollars.

The “Let All Democrats Vote Amendment” not only brings New York in compliance with the DNC, but also meets the national average time required to change Party enrollment and matches New York’s new-voter enrollment deadline (of 25 days before the Primary). For the 2020 Presidential Election, it is critical that we pass this amendment and not miss the opportunity to capitalize on the energy of the Primary to build Party enrollment and to demonstrate the Party’s commitment to fundamental democratic values and fairness.


GSD Resolution on East River Park Draft EIS

Adopted at regular meeting 5/16/19.

The East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project is “designed to reduce the risk of floods from coastal storm surges and/or flooding from high-intensity rainfall events.” (The full draft environmental impact statement prepared by the City is available here.)

The City’s $1.4 billion proposal would bulldoze three miles of shoreline parks from Montgomery to 25th St., add landfill, and raise the entire park 8-10 feet as a flood wall against the East River. Construction would start in March 2020 and last 3½ years, by the City’s estimate. Nearly seven years after Superstorm Sandy, the City has no plan for flood protection before the project is complete.

The City’s plan is problematic and needs to be reconsidered.

  1. The environmental impact of the construction project would be devastating, with all existing trees and other plant life destroyed and the loss of significant park components such as the Seal Park and the FDR-era amphitheater.
  2. Construction will close more than 60 acres of parkland along the East River without any plan to replace this vital recreation space during the time of construction.
  3. The City’s track record with large-scale construction projects, in particular those at East River Park, offer no assurances that construction (and loss of park use) will last only 3½ years.
  4. The City has provided no independent engineering review of the necessity of its proposed plan or comparative feasibility of other plans.
  5. After years of delay from the City, residents are now rushed to approve this plan based on an upcoming deadline of initial funding from the Federal government.
  6. Nearly seven years after Sandy, the City still has no plan for immediate flood protection.

We recommend the following:

  1. Commit to any East River Park construction in stages so that parts of the park are kept open and usable for the duration of the project.
  2. Work immediately with our Congressional representatives to extend the deadline to spend Federal funds, and delay the approval of this project, so that the ESCR review process is not rushed.
  3. Convene an independent panel of engineering specialists to review the City’s current plan and proposed alternatives like East River Alliance’s recommendation to extend the park over the FDR Drive. Expert panels have either reviewed or been proposed for large-scale construction projects on the L Train, BQE, and East Side Connector; the Lower East Side deserves the same consideration.
  4. Provide immediate flood protection, even if short-term. There are many types of deployable barriers that could be used to protect the Lower East Side from storm surges while a long-term solution is thoroughly explored.
  5. Commit to other plans to mitigate the impact of loss of park access, including providing transportation to alternate fields, investing in playgrounds and parks in the neighborhoods adjacent to East River Park, and designating alternate protected bike lanes as part of the East River Greenway
  6. Preserve and repurpose existing historical and landscape components of the park.

GSD Resolution on M14 Service Cuts

Adopted at regular meeting 5/16/19.

In March, the MTA surprised our local Community Board with a plan to cut 40% of the M14A and M14D stops below 14th Street — 50% of the M14A stops below Delancey Street.

In the two months since then, Grand Street Democrats engaged diverse community groups, participated in protests, collected petition signatures from our neighbors, spoke out on TV, plastered social media, showed up at community meetings, rallied our local elected officials, and won significant improvements to the MTA’s plan for seniors, students, and people with disabilities.

In addition to the work of our own District Leaders and members, there is credit to go around:

  • All of our elected officials — from City Council up to Congress — rallied against the MTA’s proposed cuts and supported community members’ demands to restore all local stops to the M14 bus route.
  • Jose Ortiz and the members of The Senior Advocacy Leadership Team (SALT), who started a petition that collected 5000 signatures and organized a successful May Day rally and march for seniors on Grand Street to protest the bus service cuts.
  • Daisy Paez, our next-door-neighbor District Leader, who rallied neighbors on the streets and online, stood up at community meetings, and led the May Day rally on Grand Street.

There is also still a lot to keep fighting to change:

  • The MTA made no attempt to reach out to the community before announcing its proposed service cuts.
  • The MTA “open house” meetings were designed not to encourage but to stifle community input.
  • Proposed service cuts were based on agenda-driven metrics, not community needs.
  • Our neighborhood is still losing two stops south of Delancey. Those most in need of convenient public transportation have to settle for a compromise victory.
  • While the purported goal of service cuts was to speed up M14 buses, NYC Department of Transportation still has no plan to mitigate traffic on Grand Street, which is the biggest factor in slow bus speeds below Delancey.
  • Our neighbors above Delancey have lost even more local stops on the M14A and M14D bus routes because of the MTA’s misguided approach to transit policy in the East Village and Lower East Side.

Good news: M14A local stops restored in latest plan

In March, the MTA surprised our local Community Board with a plan to cut 40% of the M14A and M14D stops below 14th Street — 50% of the M14A stops below Delancey Street.

In the two months since then, Grand Street Democrats engaged diverse community groups, participated in protests, collected petition signatures from our neighbors, spoke out on TV, plastered social media, showed up at community meetings, rallied our local elected officials, and won significant improvements to the MTA’s plan for seniors, students, and people with disabilities.

The MTA initially presented a plan cutting four out of eight stops south of Delancey. In the final plan presented to CB3 on Tuesday, two stops have been restored. The result is still a disappointing reduction in local service, but is so much more reasonable than what was initially proposed that we have to take this as a victory of community action.

  • The first stop we are losing is at Cherry & Jackson, which is the closest stop for many people in Vladeck Houses. But the stop on Madison & Jackson is just around the corner and less than one block away.
  • The other stop we are losing is the one in front of CVS on Grand Street between East Broadway and Willet. Riders will have to walk to Columbia or Pitt.
  • In addition, the stop currently between Suffolk and Norfolk will be moved east to Clinton Street, which is midway between Pitt and Essex, better balancing the stops along this stretch of Grand St.

The final plan has not yet been posted online.

Local electeds all agree: Save our local M14 bus stops!

Our Congressmembers, State reps, and Councilmembers are all on the same page as local seniors and neighborhood transit advocates: the MTA’s planned service cuts along the M14A and M14D bus lines are a big mistake.

After weeks of protests, the MTA presented local stakeholders with a new plan that preserves an additional stop on Grand Street, but we are still pushing for more, and our elected representatives are on our side.

This letter was sent Wednesday to NYC Transit and NYC DOT, signed by:

  • Congressmember Carolyn Maloney
  • Congressmember Nydia Velázquez
  • State Senator Brian Kavanagh
  • State Senator Brad Hoylman
  • Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou
  • Assemblymember Harvey Epstein
  • Councilmember Carlina Rivera
  • Councilmember Margaret Chin
  • Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer

In it, they call for keeping all stops along Grand Street, including the stop at Cherry and Jackson which services residents of Vladeck Houses. They also point out that traffic along Grand Street still needs to be addressed if bus speeds are really a priority for DOT.