Are you ready for a new vision of East River Park? A $335 million proposal inching closer to fruition could not only protect low-lying areas from future storms, but also dramatically improve access and amenities along the East River.
Planners offered a glimpse of the future during three community visioning sessions, the last of which was held at the Manny Cantor Center this past Thursday evening. Thanks to a federal initiative called “Rebuild by Design,” a new flood barrier is in the works from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street. The project is being overseen by the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency. The designers will finalize their concept by the end of the year and hope to begin construction in 2017.
Using 3D models, the designers sought feedback from local residents about the crossings at Delancey Street, East Houston Street, East 6th Street and East 10th Street. Different types of flood barriers will be used along the river, depending how much room is available in specific spots. A berm (or levee) featuring rolling hills and varied greenery is likely to be built in the widest areas of the park. Meanwhile, flood walls will be employed where it’s narrower. A combination of the two types of flood devices, plus removable barriers, are all part of the plan.
Architectural firms are now working on piecing all of the design elements together. During the well-attended workshop (with a chicken dinner as an inducement), participants broke up into groups to focus on each crossing.
They evaluated three different options for each, from least expensive and basic to more costly and elaborate. In the low-impact versions, the bridges are left in place, while new, less-steep stairways are constructed on each side of the FDR.
The most extravagant proposals involve completely reconstructing the bridges, creating wide pathways over the highway with gentle inclines. The general idea is to replicate the feel of the current bridge from Corlears Hook Park to the East River bandshell, which is wide enough to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists.
The design team said their goal is to keep all of the well-used playing fields intact, while creating a wide variety of new natural (and ecologically sound) recreational areas for activities like picnics and lounging.
They’re studying the idea of relocating the Delancey Street bridge span several hundred feet to the south, away from the Williamsburg Bridge. Under this scenario, an entrance would be added leading from Grand Street, while maintaining a Delancey Street entrance. During previous workshops, residents said noise from cars and the train rubbling overhead on the Williamsburg Bridge makes the current crossing unappealing. In some options, the ballfields would be rebuilt to raise them above the flood plain (an expensive proposition).
A final round of public meetings will be held in October before the final concept is developed. Construction is expected to take about five years, although the project would happen in phases, so parts of the park would remain accessible.
Sometime this coming fall, an environmental review will be conducted with a public comment period likely in November. The Environmental Impact Statement would be published next spring. At the same time, the city has set aside $6.75 million to study an extension of the flood protection system south of Montgomery Street. A Request for Proposals for that will be released sometime soon.
If you’d like to see the full presentation, it’s embedded below.