In response to neighborhood opposition to the city’s plans for a flood barrier in East River Park, the de Blasio administration announced more changes in its resiliency schemes this week.
The project, scheduled to begin next spring, will now be undertaken in sections, meaning that portions of the park will remain open during construction. But at a City Council hearing yesterday (Thursday), residents were unimpressed with the concessions from the city.
In a statement released before the hearing, organizers from the group East River Park ACTION said, “Phased construction is still phased destruction.” One activist, Yvette Mercedes explained, “One of the saddest things to us NYCHA residents about demolishing this park is that we will be the most affected. The City hasn’t given us the courtesy of consulting us. We have been dismissed. They haven’t considered the quality of air that will affect the lungs of the residents and they haven’t considered the health issues that are going to affect the residents for many years to come.”
Another activist, Jen Chantrtanapichate, added:
We agree the City needs to adapt and become more resilient to climate change. However, with $1.5 billion allocated for this project, the city has the resources to develop an ecologically grounded plan that can provide sensible flood protection while mitigating the causes of climate change-induced flooding. How about expanding the park with decking over the FDR Drive and reducing greenhouse emissions by re-envisioning the FDR as a mass transit corridor that will also serve the residents of the Lower East Side? Instead, the city’s plan keeps in place a car-centric vision from the last century and a false promise of safety behind an 8-foot wall of landfill that will inevitably become a massive shrine to the automobile and fossil fuel industry. New York City has the opportunity to be a leader in developing a resilient plan that confronts the climate crisis, but they aren’t doing that.
The city had previously announced that the entire park would be closed for a period of 3-5 years. The plan calls for demolishing the park, elevating it and rebuilding all of the recreational spaces. Politico reported:
While the alterations may tamp down criticism of project — which is expected to cost $1.5 billion and is being funded in part through federal grant money — the changes will also extend the overall process. When construction kicks off next spring, the city aims to close around half of the park until 2023. Then, the closed portion will be reopened and the second half shuttered for its makeover. The entire endeavor is expected to be completed in 2025, according to the source — thus eliminating much of the time the city said it would save under the current framework, which practically doubled the original cost when it was announced.
The city’s plans have already been approved by the City Planning Commission. It’s now up to the City Council to vote on the land use applications.
Meanwhile, new details have emerged about plans for flood protection below Montgomery Street in the Two Bridges area. It includes elevating a section of the East River Esplanade by two feet in some places. You can read more about that here.