GSD recommends NO vote on ESCRP

With a City Council vote imminent on the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project — the plan to add 8-10 feet of land fill to East River Park for flood protection from Montgomery to 23rd Street — Grand Street Dems voted at our fall meeting to recommend that our Council representatives vote “No” on the ULURP application.

At our spring meeting, GSD passed a resolution expressing many reservations about the City’s plan. With most of those reservations unresolved, club members voted to reject the City’s plan and push for a new community-driven design process that could produce a better plan.

How our representatives — Carlina Rivera and Margaret Chin — vote may determine how the entire City Council votes, since on most ULURP votes Council members defer to the wishes of the local representative.

Thank you to the organizing done over the past several months by East River Alliance and East River Park Action, including several GSD members, to shed light on the many problems with the City’s plan.

GSD recommends YES on all five Charter revision proposals

At our fall meeting on October 16, Grand Street Dems members voted to recommend “Yes” votes for all five City Charter revision proposals that will be on the ballot in November.

We were fortunate to have three members of City Council with us to give us the Charter revision highlights — Ben Kallos, Mark Levine, and Brad Lander.

Councilmembers Ben Kallos, Mark Levine, and Brad Lander speaking at GSD Fall Meeting.

There will be five revisions to the City Charter that need voter approval in November:

  1. Changes to NYC elections, including introducing ranked choice voting for primaries and special elections.
  2. Reforms to the Civilian Complaint Review Board that adjudicates alleged misconduct by NYPD officers.
  3. Changes to ethics and governance statutes.
  4. Modifications to City budgeting, including allowing a rainy-day fund for the first time.
  5. Additional transparency to approving land use changes (ULURP).

There are a few very useful documents you can find online:

Again, Grand Street Dems recommends voting YES for all five Charter revision proposals on November 5.

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

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.

2x marches in 30h: Hit the pavement for climate, for parks

Get your marching shoes on, because you’ve got two chances to hit the pavement in 30 hours: first for climate action, then for East River Park.

Friday, September 20

12:00 pm — Assemble at Foley Square
1:00 pm — March to Battery Park
3:30 – 5:00 pm — Rally at Battery Park

Three days before the UN Climate Summit in NYC, young people and adults will strike all across the world to demand transformative action be taken by governments to address the climate crisis.

16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg headlines the Battery Park rally, with special performances by Jaden and Willow Smith. NYC Public School students have an excused absence if they are picked up by a parent or guardian to attend the rally.

Saturday, September 21

12:00 pm — March from Tompkins Square Park to East River Park
1:30 pm — Rally at the East River Park Labyrinth (just north of Williamsburg Bridge)

The City’s controversial plan to destroy, then rebuild, East River Park for flood protection is nearing a critical phase. An independent report from Dutch environmental group Deltares is due this weekend. Next week the City Planning Commission is expected to vote on the plan. And soon after that, City Council will have a chance to make its final judgement.

Park advocates will take to the street Saturday to demand a better plan that protects the neighborhood from flooding without destroying East River Park.

Early voting on the Lower East Side

For the first time this year, early voting is available to New Yorkers starting ten days before Election Day.

In our neighborhood, JHS 56 at Henry Street and Clinton Street will be available to voters starting on Saturday, October 26.

Early voting hours:

SaturdayOctober 2610 am – 4 pm
SundayOctober 2710 am – 4 pm
MondayOctober 289 am – 5 pm
TuesdayOctober 297 am – 8 pm
WednesdayOctober 309 am – 5 pm
ThursdayOctober 319 am – 5 pm
FridayNovember 17 am – 8 pm
SaturdayNovember 210 am – 4 pm
SundayNovember 310 am – 4 pm

East River Park project gets independent review

The East River park flood protection plan is getting a much-needed independent review by Hans Gehrels of the Dutch environmental group Deltares.

Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Carlina Rivera announced this week that they had secured funding for the review and that Gehrels’ report would be ready by September 23, when the City Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the City’s plan to raise the park 8-9 feet for flood protection.

This is a huge win for community groups that have been pressing for third party expert review, including Grand Street Democrats. Brewer and Rivera deserve thanks for following through on this request.

With so much skepticism about the City’s plan to destroy the park in order to save it, as well as the optimistic 3-1/2 year timeline the City has attached to its proposal, this independent review should help settle some fundamental questions and guide Rivera and her colleagues on the City Council when the plan reaches them for final approval this fall.

Gehrels is accepting comments from the community and I encourage you to send him your questions and opinions so he has a full understanding of the project’s scope and human impact in the short time he has available: