East River Park Construction Resumes After City Claims Victory in Lawsuit

You can expect work to resume at East River Park in the coming week, where crews are continuing to demolish familiar features of the 82-year-old recreational space. New York’s Court of Appeals dismissed on Thursday a legal challenge that had thrown the future of the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project into question.

In a three-line ruling, the court dismissed the appeal from the local group, East River Action, and also denied a motion to hold the city in contempt for continuing demolition while a temporary restraining order was in effect.

In an email to supporters, East River Action’s Pat Arnow said, “It is with great sorrow and fury that I report that the city can finish demolition of East River Park with impunity… Now many of us are mourning hard. Yet we will not stop holding this city accountable for this environmental and social disaster wreaked upon the Lower East Side.”

“The City’s legal case was rock solid – as solid as the plan we were defending to make this park and community more resilient to the climate threats we face,” said NYC attorney Georgia Pestana. “This is a huge win for the City of New York but especially for the many, many New Yorkers who live near and visit the park.”

Crews have already swept away large portions of the park, including all of the seating in the amphitheater. They will be back on the job early Monday. According to posted work schedules, work will take place Monday-Thursday this week from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with a break on Friday, Christmas Eve.

The East River Park resiliency plan is a $1.45 billion initiative to rebuild the recreational space about eight feet higher in order to act as a flood barrier. The activists preferred an earlier plan, which was the result of years of community visioning.

But many other community residents wanted to see the city’s plan move forward as quickly as possible. They rallied on Friday with City Council member Carlina Rivera.

City Council member Carlina Rivera’s Twitter.

“Here’s the thing about the LES,” tweeted Rivera. “We’re not just fighters, we’re leaders—because history has shown us that if we don’t stand up for ourselves, no one will. The fight to secure flood protection has been no different. We need ESCR and I’m proud of our community for leading the way.”

Groups leading the rally included Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), the political club CODA and NYCHA tenant leaders. They also started an online petition which reads, in part, “The East Side Coastal Resiliency Plan, (ESCR), is one of many critical life-saving infrastructure projects needed to protect the lower east side, including New York City’s Housing Authority (NYCHA) and low-income affordable housing residents, vulnerable populations along the waterfront.”