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 does not automatically trigger the delay she requests, but the City Planning Commission has announced that it’s vote on the City’s plan will come nearly at the end of its allotted 60-day review period in September.

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 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.

1/23 at 1:00 pm: City Council hearing on rebuilding East River Park

Councilmember Carlina Rivera has called a City Council hearing for Wednesday, January 23 at 1:00 pm to discuss the East Side Coastal Resiliency project that would completely rebuild East River Park for flood protection.

There are many unanswered questions about the current plan. Anyone interested in the fate of our local park is encouraged to attend and to testify.

Following superstorm Sandy in 2012, federal funds were allocated for flood protection along this stretch of NYC shoreline. Much of the East Village is built up on a flood plain, and, as we learned that fall, is particularly susceptible to rising sea level and tide surges that we should expect more of as climate change makes an impact.

A design process over four years produced a plan that would maintain the park’s primary recreational facilities and protect residential areas with berms and flood walls along the FDR Drive.

Last fall, the Mayor presented a revised plan that would also protect the park itself from flooding by raising the entire park with landfill above the flood line. As presented, the project would close the entire park for the duration of construction, estimated at 3.5 years. This new plan was designed to take less time but cost more money, and for many people in the neighborhood the radical nature of the park reconstruction finally hit home. (The headline in this weekend’s New York Times neatly summarized the crux of the problem: “To Save East River Park, the City Intends to Bury It.”)

You can see the City’s recent presentation deck to CB3 here.

The city council hearing on Wednesday is an opportunity to let the City know how vital this park is to East Village and Lower East Side residents, and raise questions about how the project will impact our lives. Is such a dramatic rebuild really necessary to protect the neighborhood from floods? Is complete closure of the park necessary for construction? How can we believe the City’s accelerated timetable when all other construction projects along the waterfront have been many years behind schedule?

If you are able to come out on a workday for this important hearing, please do.