Local Groups Try to Boost Turnout For Wednesday Hearing on East River Storm Barrier

East River Park Hearing (1)

Local residents and community organizations are trying to get the word out for tomorrow’s City Council oversight hearing on revised plans for a flood barrier along the East River.

The city administration abandoned a previous plan that included a lot of community engagement, suddenly shifting to a new proposal that, as the New York Times noted the other day, includes “burying the park under eight to 10 feet of landfill.” The hearing takes place at 1 p.m. at City Hall.

One of the groups especially outspoken about the new plan is the Lower East Side Ecology Center. Its executive director, Christine Datz-Romero, told reporter Joe Hanania:

“We agree we need to protect our community, but I don’t understand why we have to destroy a park to do so,” Ms. Datz-Romero said. Instead, she envisions the park as a floodplain, slowing and absorbing rising waters with salt-tolerant Juniper and sumac trees her volunteers have already planted. “We have seen no environmental impact statement addressing any of this. Instead, we are told little, our concerns steamrollered,” she said.

While city officials note that an environmental review was prepared, community residents have pointed out that none of the new potential impacts from the city’s revised scheme were studied.

City Council Will Hold Oversight Hearing on Revised East River Flood Protection Plan

Rendering from recent presentation from the city on the revised plan for the East River waterfront.

Rendering from recent presentation from the city on the revised plan for the East River waterfront.

In the community, there are many unanswered questions about the city’s sudden decision to overhaul the plan for a flood barrier along the East River. Now the City Council has scheduled an oversight hearing to learn more about the decision to scrap the original proposal, which involved years of community outreach.

The joint hearing of the Council’s committees on Parks and Environmental Protection will be held Jan. 23 at 1 p.m. In a statement released yesterday, City Council member Carlina Rivera explained:

This hearing will finally give the Council and our community the chance to hear directly from the Mayor’s team and relevant agency commissioners regarding the recent changes to this monumental coastal protection project. Even with multiple community briefings and meetings with elected officials, we still do not have important details about this project, and I expect the Mayor’s team to come well prepared and help us understand the need for these drastic changes. This new plan represents a fundamental departure from anything the City has previously discussed and would reportedly bring the projected cost of the project to $1.45 billion. The Mayor’s Office has failed to provide detailed analyses for explaining why this $700 million increase is necessary. In addition, this new plan would require the closure of East River Park, the only real green space for tens of thousands of NYCHA residents and community members on the Lower East Side, for three years. Officials have not explained in any way how they will provide alternate outdoor space for this community, which has one of the highest asthma rates in the city.

Other meetings are scheduled regarding the project. On Thursday evening, city officials will outline their plans at a meeting of Community Board 3’s parks committee (this will be a repeat of presentations from two public meetings held last month). The committee meets at the BRC Senior Services Center, 30 Delancey St., 6:30 p.m.  And tonight, a local coalition will hold its own grass roots meeting at the Boys and Girls Republic, 888 East 6th St. at 6:30 p.m. More about that meeting here.