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You Can Speak Out on the City’s East River Flood Protection Plan Tomorrow Night

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east river coastal resiliency

Coming up tomorrow night, you will have a chance to look over preliminary plans for the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. That’s the city’s ambitious initiative to create a flood barrier and enhanced recreational area along the East River.

A public meeting will take place at Grand Street Settlement, 80 Pitt St., starting at 6 p.m. The project was funded by the federal government, which awarded $335 million to build a levee and flood wall system from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street. The city recently applied for another $$500 million in funding to extend the project below Montgomery Street, all the way to the Battery.

This will be the last opportunity to weigh in on the plans before a concept design is unveiled at the end of the year. If you’d like to check out coverage from the last round of meetings, click here.

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  1. This proposal is flawed by at least one design error: on the FDR someplace between Montgomery Street and possibly the Manhattan Bridge, the designers propose to install an apparatus housing removable barriers. The designers don’t know yet if the barriers will be operated automatically (opening and closing them) or will be installed manually. Regardless, the removable barriers don’t appear to have very bright prospects for proper use.

    How are the barriers to be tested for tightness against the flow of water (so water doesn’t seep through) and how are they to be tested for stability and stalwart operation against the pressure of the East River? The designers are silent on this. It seems we are supposed to just buy their pitch (yes, you, too, hear coming from their pockets the rustling of shares in the Brooklyn Bridge).

    How are the barriers to be maintained? What City agency will be responsible for them? Because they will be on the FDR, the jurisdictional argument goes to the Transportation Department. Well, we know how well that department operates the Staten Island Ferry – how many people died under the Bloomberg administration because the ‘managers’ were negligent in operating at least one Ferry run? Do we want the Sanitation Department to have jurisdiction over the barriers? They seem to do a better job at snow removal from the DOT’s streets than the DOT does at anything. The Designers are silent on this.

    How will the barriers be staffed, that is, how many civil servants have to be hired to be dedicated to the barriers’ maintenance and operation or will staff be dedicated to the barriers? What will the annual appropriation be for staffing and maintenance? Are City Hall and Albany committed to funding their operation? The designers are silent on this, too.

    No matter how many berms, walls and other cute landscaping gimmicks the designers have larded into this project, none of the features seem to require the attention, annual expenditures and staffing as the movable barriers will command – and among all of the items in this design only the barriers are likely to fail because of human error (think Staten Island Ferry accidents). Yet, the designers of this Big U have no comment on the barriers and their weakness (they certainly don’t deny what you are reading in this comment).

    When the barriers fail during at least a Sandy-like storm (likely sometime after a budget battle between our overseer-Mayor and our owner-Governor when they de-fund the barriers and retrench staffing for them), then the East River will rush onto Lower Manhattan and likely flood us like Sandy did, only more slowly – and we will be able to walk onto some of the designers’ new bridges over the FDR and watch from a safe crow’s nest perch as the East River courses between the berms/walls/etc and the area’s high elevations and wreak a more beautiful havoc over the land. At least it is likely to be prettier and easier to watch than was Sandy.

  2. You’re right, Joe – you don’t have every single answer you need, so we should do nothing. Good thinking.

  3. Peter, the answer we have is that these designers are leaving to chance how the removable barriers will operate. The barriers are the weakest link and they look like they will do a very poor job of keeping the East River out of your house.

    I’m not advocating doing nothing. I’m advocating that we get answers to these questions they leave unanswered. That said, you offer hope.

    Your calloused knuckles will do a better job of keeping the East River in its place, but your hands are doing serious damage to the sidewalks as you walk. … Try an upright gait.

  4. Well gosh, you got me again, Joe! You’re really bright. I’m prepared to give up, exactly the same way the city should give up and not even bother to finish discussing and designing and eventually installing these barriers. I mean, like you say, Joe, the city will never formulate a good plan for their use and upkeep , so why even bother trying to keep the floodwaters out? There can’t possibly be any logical or practical problems with that view, because – you know – Joe, you’re a pretty sharp guy. You’ve clearly thought this through. Keep at it, my man!

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