City Kicks Off East River Resiliency Project, as Local Activists Step Up Protests

Rendering of East River Park at Delancey Street as envisioned by city planners.
Rendering of East River Park at Delancey Street as envisioned by city planners.
Rendering of East River Park at Delancey Street as envisioned by city planners.

In a press release dated April 15, the mayor stated, “This project will keep generations of New Yorkers safe from extreme weather, coastal storm, and rising sea levels – all while preserving and improving some of our city’s most iconic open spaces.” Almost a decade after Hurricane Sandy, construction is beginning on a 2.4 mile stretch of the East River from East 25th Street to Montgomery Street. It involves demolishing and then rebuilding East River Park at a higher level and creating a system of floodwalls, berms and movable floodgates.

The city is calling the ESCR scheme the, “most ambitious infrastructure and climate justice projects in New York City history” and saying it will, “extend flood protections and improve open spaces for more than 110,000 New Yorkers – including 28,000 public housing residents.”

Construction crews have already begun installing an underground wall of structural sheeting in Stuyvesant Cove Park and will soon begin pile driving for a floodwall. According to the press release, construction in East River Park won’t begin until “later this year.”  The city has committed to keeping about half the park open at any given time.

Jainey Bavishi, director of the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, referred to ESCR as, “one of the most technically complex resiliency projects anywhere in the world” and asserted, “years of collaboration among the City, community members, and local leaders have enabled this bold and visionary plan, which integrates flood protections seamlessly into New York City’s urban fabric while renewing and strengthening beloved public spaces like East River Park.” In truth, the city abandoned a years long community engagement process and the plan that came out of it, opting for a different approach that included no community input.

During construction, the park will be raised about 8 feet. The newly constructed park will include a new amphitheater, ballfields, tennis courts, soccer and multi-use turf fields, track and field, basketball courts, playground, comfort stations and picnic and barbeque areas. The Tennis House, Track House and 10th Street Comfort Station will  all be rebuilt. The Corlears Hook, Delancey Street, and East 10th Street bridges will be replaced with wider and more accessible entryways. The Houston Street passageway will be redesigned. The greenway running between the park and FDR Drive will  be rebuilt, with a 22-foot wide shared (bike and pedestrian) path. Access to the Corlears Hook and Stuyvesant Cove ferry landings will be maintained throughout construction. The city says the project is expected to be completed in 2025.

City Council Memver Carlina Rivera said, “I’m proud that we are embarking on this first-of-its-kind project that not only protects us from storms and sea level rise, but ensures permanent access to our cherished East River Park where I, as a Lower East Side resident, have so many memories. Climate change projects like ESCR are our generation’s moonshot, our subway system. They’re not going to be easy. But I’m happy that our community stepped up and took the lead on the first major resiliency project in New York City. I look forward to continued work with advocates, the local advisory group we set up, and other officials to ensure this City does right by our neighborhoods with East Side Coastal Resiliency.”  





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The East Side Coastal Resiliency Project is, of course, controversial. The local group, East River Park Action, has been advocating against the current plan for many months. Today (Sunday) they’re holding a big protest, marching from Tompkins Square Park to East River Park. They’re calling for: “a moratorium on the project, a new environmental review, a new flood control plan that preserves our parkland, interim flood protection, transparency, accountability and an open park as the pandemic rages on.”  They’re also calling for a City Council hearing, “on the recently uncovered Value Engineering Study that was the justification for the current destruction.” A somewhat unredacted version of that study was only released after advocates took the city to court. The group is still pursuing its lawsuit against the project.

You can see construction updates here, and also learn more about the project.