Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order, East River Park Work Goes on Regardless

It was a busy and dramatic week in East River Park as the legal skirmishes continued over the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. The long-delayed project got underway on Monday in a section of the park below Stanton Street, but came to an abrupt halt on Wednesday when the New York State Court of Appeals issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). The city resumed demolition on Friday and crews have been on the job throughout the weekend.

East River Park Action, one of the groups fighting the city, stated in a midday e-blast: “NYPD has held back demonstrators. They continue to defy the rule of law, and instead show a document from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration via the Dept. of Design and Construction saying the demolition can continue.” The email noted that, “a contempt of court motion has been sent to (the) Court of Appeals in Albany, which will see it Monday morning. With NYPD’s assuring this illegal demolition can continue, half the park will be destroyed by tomorrow.”

In a statement a couple of days ago, the Department of Design and Construction, which is leading the project, argued, “The City has reviewed the Court’s written order and we do not believe it prevents us from continuing work on this vital resiliency project… The courts have already decided in our favor – twice – and we remain confident that our strong legal position will allow us to deliver the protection they deserve.”

The city intends to demolish East River Park and rebuild it on ground up to eight feet higher. An attorney for East River Park Action has argued that authorization from the State Legislature is necessary. A lower court dismissed the case, but the appeals court put the TRO in place at least until December 20, when the city must respond to the appeal.

Delays, including multiple legal challenges, have forced the city to push back its completion date for the $1.3 billion project until 2026.