Seaport City is Luxury Development Scheme in Disguise, CB3 Panel Says

City officials got an earful from members of Community Board 3 and local residents last night concerning their plans for “Seaport City,” Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to create a new neighborhood on the East River.

seaport city rfp

The NYC Economic Development Corp. is in the process of selecting a planning consultant to conduct a feasibility study.  Last night’s briefing was led by Dan Zarrilli, the city’s director of resiliency.  Seaport City is one of 250 recommendations detailed this past June by Bloomberg for protecting New York from future Hurricane Sandy-like storms.  Using Battery Park City as a guide, planners are looking at whether a new land mass could be built as a way of protecting the densely populated communities along the East River.

But CB3 members expressed a huge amount of skepticism because city officials have signaled (although they denied this last night) that a complex levee system could potentially be paid for with large-scale market rate commercial and residential development along the waterfront.  Zarrili said, repeatedly, that the plans are very preliminary and there are no pre-conceived notions about the project.  But local activists in attendance, who have been fending off luxury development schemes on the East River for decades, were not buying it.

floodplain projection map

Zarrilli highlighted projections indicating that the city, already vulnerable to catastrophic flooding (as Sandy so vividly showed), will be in increasingly greater peril.  He noted that last year’s hurricane cost the city $19 billion in damage and lost productivity, and warned that number could climb to $90 billion by the year 2050.  Once a planning firm is selected, their mission will be to study an area from Pier 35, near Clinton Street, all the way to the Battery Maritime Building.  He said the initial report could be ready by the end of the year, before Mayor Bloomberg leaves office.

David McWater, the co-chair of CB3’s land use committee, was not impressed by what he heard.  “You come here and it’s the fear” of another storm, he said. “The only way to deal with (rising sea waters) is to build luxury housing” and to say to “the little people who got hurt in (Hurricane Sandy), the billionaire (developers) are coming in. It sticks in my craw.”  Damaris Reyes, executive director of Good Old Lower East Side, a group that has pushed for public access on the East River, agreed wholeheartedly. “You are taking advantage of fear to further the city’s waterfront development agenda.”  David Crane, another longtime CB3 member, said, “I don’t like the idea of building a wall around the neighborhood. It sounds like the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. A lot of people could die.”

Gigi Li, CB3’s chairperson, noted that the revenue from Seaport City, if it comes to fruition, would go into a general city fund, and would not directly benefit the Lower East Side and Chinatown. Another speaker, Kerri Culhane of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, expressed shock that the city was just now briefing the community.  The request for proposals was released in late July.  Community board leaders were briefed a few days before it was publicly disseminated, but there have been no widely publicized public forums.

As the city officials continued to insist that CB3’s alarm about the plan was premature, McWater strongly suggested they knew precisely how the process is going to go. “On December 31, there will be a report.  You know exactly what it is going to say.”  An official with the Economic Development Corp. countered, “we won’t be deaf to what we heard today.”

Community activists are not going to be waiting to hear from the city.  They’re already mobilizing to fight the Seaport City proposal.

16 comments to Seaport City is Luxury Development Scheme in Disguise, CB3 Panel Says

  • oh well

    you won’t take my view. I’m not going to sit with my hands crossed and allow a billion dollar developer to block my view of the harbor behind some pretense that it will save the neighborhood. The views from the lower east side are worth millions and they just want to waltz in and take it. time to protest….

  • david

    where exactly is this to be?

  • fipper

    Please keep us posted on anything we can do to fight this proposal… even though it sounds like it may be a bit too late…

  • JL

    Let them build it, a hurricane will knock it down. To think that levees re going to protect Manhattan long term is so naive it’s laughable,

  • Possible

    So, enlighten me, why is YOUR view more important than SOMEONE ELSE’S VIEW?
    Its the point of entry in New York living – you accept the risk of something taller going in next door.
    You sound like one of the elitist 99-percenters with your reverse dismissal of someone else’s equal right to the view.

  • oh well

    beacause I’ve had my view for 43 years to allow some elitist to fill the land in the river and pop a building up in front of mine with the pretense that they are there to save the residents from a future flood is bull crap. they just want to make billions from a new water front. fix the existing water front. did you even read the story? it has nothing to do with being an elitist which is the totally untrue. I happen to have lived in the Lower E for 46 years 43 in my building and i live on the water front beacuase no one could build in front. now this nonsense about adding land and buildings luxury towers that no one in my building will be able to afford is bull. as for you. read the story before you act like you know something.

  • oh well

    everyone has the right to view just buy into a building that has the view you’re looking for but that does’t give you or anyone else the right to fill the river and block the existing views from the people that have been living on the waterfront for many years. just because the neighborhood is now the trendy place to be doesn’t mean you can come in and bulldoze the existing tenants out.

  • Jared R

    And how would you propose to pay for storm barriers to protect your property? Of course! Have everyone else pay for it in their taxes. Of course.

  • oh well

    I pay taxes too and so do my neighbors. they should of thought about this issue a long time ago. now it’s time to pay the piper. I don’t live in a flood zone and my building suffered very little damage in stom sandy but adding land in the river and building up luxury towers in a new flood zone isn’t the answer.

  • oh well

    I’ve been paying taxes since i was 16 thats 31 years. I’m sure my tax dollar has gone to all kinds of crap. Now it’s time for some of that money to be spent in my neighborhood. It’s needed.

  • oh well

    I too pay taxes. have been paying taxes since i was 16. my neighbors pay taxes. how many of my tax dollars have gone toward nonsence projects? the levees have to be paid for with taxes, thats what we pay taxes for. thats a project that everyone in new york should pay for. I’m not the only one affected by this the whole of lower manhattan is in jeopardy of another flood. so you think filling in the river building luxury towers in the newly filled land will save the day? sorry the next flood would just destroy those buildings and it will cost more tax dollars to fix. the levees will be paid for once and they will keep the water out it’s been done in the netherlands and holland for many years now.

  • Jared R

    Wait, they should have thought about this issue 50 – 100 years+ before anyone knew climate change existed? 1/3 of politicians still deny climate change. You build a levee to remain above the 100 year floodplain, and you use sea level rise projects to go higher. Many levees in the Netherlands (and around the world) were made to work with additional uses; agriculture, housing, transportation, etc. I do believe in maximizing the use of levees/land fill. I do not believe Battery Park City is a failure; in fact, it has been a wild success in a City that needs more housing and increased opportunity for jobs/business. If anything, access to the waterfront can only improve, as it did with Battery Park City. Today, we have a promenade under an elevated highway. It is unacceptable. The other option is to tear down the FDR and build a relatively narrow levee/park there. Levees in this part of Manhattan will benefit a very small group of residents for an extremely high cost. The answer, obviously, is using the private sector to provide for this infrastructure. Perhaps you do not believe how dire the situation is for the Seaport area regarding storm surge?

  • Jared R

    Do you happen to live in a building built during the “slum clearance” years?

  • oh well

    why don’t we just fill the whole east river while were at it? start at the harlem river and fill the whole thing this would make sure their are no more floods. the battery was created with the land from the world trade center. who said 50 or 100 years the water level has been rising slowly for some time now and this plan should have been put into effect some time ago. now that the 100 year flood comes yearly the private sector wants to jump in fill the river and build unaffordable housing in an area that is predominantely low income. sounds like the rich pushing out the poor. battery park city had a very small number of residents compared to the lower east side river community. this would affect a large amount of people. we can only learn from the leaders of levee building. how is adding more land in the river and putting up luxury highrise towers going to stop the floods? Like i said I’ve lived in the Lower east side my whole life the water has only come over the wall 4 times in the last 46 years. the last three times were recent. so I happen to know how dire the situation is but to build out the river is not the answer. the water has to be stopped out by the verrazano to keep the harbor and rivers from rising. rich get richer from the misery of the poor. plus battery park city was flooded more than my neighborhood so that didn’t help did it.

  • Joseph Hanania

    How about this idea in the East River Park area. Problems: the LES does not have enough park land. The FDR is nolsy. The river floods. All three issues can be addressed as one by extending the bridge over the FDR at Corlears Hook Park northward, perhaps to the end of East River Park. In effect, this would create a tunnel for the FDR. Then, landscape the top of the tunnel/bridge to make it part of the park. Perhaps we could add ballfields or quiet areas or gardens. Thus, East River Park, which is narrow, would be widened. At Corlears Hook, the two existing parks would blend in as one, brining more park users to this underused park. And the tunnel’s eastern wall would serve as a dike, protecting the neighborhood (though not the lower part of the park, from flooding, while preserving and even enhancing views.

  • Lily

    What’s wrong with a little luxury in a part of NYC that refuses to get out of the last century.