Residents Still Have Concerns About East River Floodwall

Renderings from: NYC Mayors' Office; presentation prepared for Gourverneur Gardens, October 2015.

Renderings from: NYC Mayors’ Office; presentation prepared for Gourverneur Gardens, October 2015.

The week started off with big news on the East River waterfront. We learned yesterday that the federal government is awarding another $170 million for flood protection in the low-lying area from East 23rd Street down to Battery Park. It seems like a good time to revisit one aspect of the project that’s stirred some controversy: a flood wall alongside the Gouverneur Gardens housing complex.

The overall plan calls for a series of berms and bridges in East River Park. But in the area just above Montgomery Street, alongside the long-delayed Pier 42 Park, there’s not as much room between the river and FDR Drive. For this reason, designers are envisioning a network of floodwalls and deployable gates to keep surging waters from overwhelming the adjoining neighborhood.

As we reported back in October, some local residents have concerns about being walled off from the new recreational area. Designers and city officials met with people at Gouverneur Gardens this past fall to discuss the plan and hear feedback. You can see renderings below from their presentation:

initial design pier 42 area

montgomery street flood gate

montgomery street flood protection rendering

flood protection along pier 42

As you can see from the renderings, the wall would range in height from between 3.5 feet to 7 feet. An environmental review of the entire project area is now underway.

In a December letter to Daniel Zarrilli, the mayor’s director of recovery and resiliency, local activists spelled out some of their misgivings about the plan. The letter was signed by Trever Holland on behalf of the LES Power Partnership:

A large stock of low-income and affordable housing is located below 14th Street… It still isn’t clear what materials the walls will be composed of. We continue to have concerns about safety. A 5 foot high wall may not seem obstructive until you actually stand in its’ shadow. The walls may become graffiti magnets and eyesores. Serious consideration needs to be given to this area to determine whether the walls could have a dual purpose such as planters, tree pits, additional seating or long term art installations. As this is also an aging community, mobility issues will also need to be examined. Therefore we ask that you present the current plans to our community with scaled models that depict the buildings and the realistic appearance of floodwalls based on possible materials to be used. We encourage you to continue to communicate with the residents of Gouverneur Gardens to ensure that resiliency efforts near them are effective and respectful… We understand the multiple challenges you face in designing and implementing a resiliency project of this magnitude and hope you are able to understand our issue of equitable distribution.

A spokesperson from the mayor’s office told us a few months ago that planners have no desire to “wall off” the park from the local community. The master plan, the spokesperson explained, is a work in progress that is being constantly refined. The first phase of the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project is expected to begin construction in mid-2017. As we reported yesterday, construction of the Pier 42 park has now been delayed until early 2017.

Click here for the full Gouverneur Gardens presentation.