The New York City Council yesterday approved a controversial plan to build a flood protection system along the East River from East 25th Street to Montgomery Street.
The $1.4 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency Project will mean the complete reconstruction of East River Park. The new park will be raised as much as 8 feet as a way of protecting the Lower East Side and adjacent neighborhoods from climate change. Construction is set to begin next year. The park will be closed in stages. In a statement, Mayor de Blasio asserted:
Hurricane Sandy dramatically changed the lives of New Yorkers all across this city. With the rising prevalence of coastal storms in the era of climate change, the passage of the East Side Coastal Resiliency project takes a critical step forward in protecting 110,000 New Yorkers from dangers this city knows all too well. I thank Council Members Chin, Powers, and Rivera for their leadership as we make New York City a more resilient city for all.
City Council Member Carlina Rivera released a lengthy “Dear Neighbors” letter via email last night. It reads, in part:
Over a year ago, I moved forward with negotiations thinking of the many injustices our community has faced, from the FDR Drive built by Robert Moses with no concept of its environmental impacts, the lead lined apartments in our NYCHA campuses that have still not been repaired, and the mold in so many of our buildings that was exacerbated after the waters of Hurricane Sandy flooded our homes. That is why the agreement we reached is so important for our communities. It not only protects us for the next 100 years, but phases in construction to keep our open space accessible while creating a world-class park with new ball fields, tennis courts, pedestrian bridges that better accommodate our neighbors with disabilities, and a revitalized amphitheater that is so important to our cultural celebrations.
With the approval of this plan we are also bringing a long list of community improvements to 17 other local park spaces and six NYCHA campuses, creating new partnerships with community gardens, extending hours at school recreation sites, and building new barbecue areas. We’re voting to expand pedestrian and bike-focused infrastructure, with commitments for new protected bike lanes in Alphabet City and the expansion of closed-street programming that includes pocket parks. And we’re planning for the future with both a new disaster-preparedness campaign for our front-line residents and a commitment to study the future of the FDR in a world that must include reduced vehicle use and emissions.
The breadth of these investments can be seen in the many groups that have announced their support, including many who have previously expressed skepticism. We’re not just talking about elected officials, NYCHA residents, Little League Directors, or park tenants. We’re talking policy experts who were behind the original push for resiliency work in New York City, including Rebuild by Design and Regional Plan Association.
Many local activists, however, were dismayed that the plan was approved. Here’s what East River Park ACTION had to say:
We are grief-stricken and furious and we will fight for this community. Your vote is a vote for climate change, not against it, your vote is a vote against community, and we will never forget and never forgive any of you for letting this happen and voting for a plan that is neither scientific nor resilient. The NYCHA speaks letter told you that this plan represents an assault on our families, and assault on our history. And you didn’t care. Shame.
The project is supposed to be completed in 2025.