Photo via Twitter/@jeremyunger1.
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.
Rendering of East River Park at Delancey Street as envisioned by city planners.
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.
Rendering of East River Park at Delancey Street as envisioned by city planners.
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.
Community activists are planning a rally tomorrow (Saturday) to protest the city’s resiliency plan for East River Park. From the organizers’ press release:
Demonstrators will bury a much-criticized flood control plan under a pile of compost in East River Park Saturday. It’s their response to the city’s plan to bury the 57-acre park beneath eight feet of landfill starting in six months.
“East River Park ACTION
is organizing the community to oppose the city’s scheme. We support a plan that will provide much-needed flood protection. At the same time it should expand the park and reduce greenhouse emissions in response to the climate crisis,” says Howard Brandstein, director of the Sixth Street Community Center. He is one of the organizers of the “March and Rally to Save East River Park.”
The rally and march begins at Tompkins Square Park at noon. Participants will cross over to the East River before heading down towards the Williamsburg Bridge. The city plans to demolish East River Park as part of the plan, and completely rebuild it. The park would be closed for at least 3 1/2 years. An earlier, community-driven resiliency plan was abandoned.
Rendering: NYC resiliency presentation.
There are a couple of opportunities this month to participate in the public review process for the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project.
As you may know, the city’s plan to protect the Lower East Side from future storms on the scale of Hurricane Sandy has been met with heavy criticism. Many local residents are unhappy about proposed changes to East River Park (the vital recreational area would be closed for 3-5 years and be almost completely reconstructed and raised several feet).
On Tuesday, June 11 there will be a Community Board 3 ULURP hearing. The project is just beginning its path through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. The meeting of CB3’s parks committee takes place at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 188, 442 East Houston St. You can read the ULURP application here.
A second meeting (the regularly scheduled monthly Parks Committee session) will take place Thursday June 13, 6:30 p.m. at Henry Street Settlement, 301 Henry St. Both meetings will address, among other issues, the acquisition of/access to privately owned land along the proposed flood barrier, from Montgomery Street up to 23rd Street.
In addition to these formal hearings, there are two open houses hosted by city officials this week. The first is Wednesday, June 5, 4-8 p.m. The other is Thursday, June 6 2-8 p.m. Both sessions will be held at Peter Cooper Village, 360 1st Avenue (entrance on 21st Street). More details here.
A 30-year old man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for brutally raping a female jogger in East River Park two years ago.
The ordeal happened in November of 2015 near the East River Park bandshell. Prosecutors said Paul Niles dragged the victim by her hair from the footpath near Jackson Street into the amphitheater and assaulted her. He then stole the woman’s phone and credit card, and used the credit card to make purchases at a bodega in Brooklyn.
Niles was convicted of first degree rape, second degree robbery, as well as second degree strangulation by a Manhattan jury last month. A judge sentenced him to 40 years, plus 20-years of post-release supervision.
District Attorney Cy Vance said, “This was a brutal stranger assault, and I commend the victim for her bravery in bringing her attacker to justice, as well as the prosecutors and members of law enforcement who worked tirelessly on this case. According to a report on runner safety, more than 40 percent of women have experienced harassment while jogging. Female runners should be able to engage in this activity without fear of being threatened, sexually assaulted, or worse.”
When the attack happened in 2015, local residents complained about poor lighting in East River Park. Although the city installed new lighting as a result, we just heard from a reader today who said the new fixtures are not working. The reader warned, “It’s only a matter of time before something bad happens.” We’ll be looking into the issue.
Over the weekend, police took 28-year-old Paul Niles into custody in connection with last Wednesday evening’s rape in East River Park. We reported the arrest on Saturday. Here’s an update.
Saturday at about 6:30 pm., Niles flagged down a police car in Southeastern Queens and turned himself in. He has been charged with first degree rape, two counts of robbery and identity theft. Niles pleaded not guilty. His lawyer said he did not admit to being involved in the incident. Niles is being held without bail. “Prosecutors allege, the Post reported, that “Niles made statements to investigators that alluded to the robbery.”
In the attack, Niles is accused of dragging a 26-year-old woman from the foot bridge near Jackson Street, raping her in the area near the East River bandshell and stealing her credit card and phone. He took off on a bike and used the credit card at a local bodega. Surveillance footage helped cops identify the suspect. Cops say Niles tried to attack another woman in the same area earlier Wednesday. He was scared off when she pretended to call 911.
News reports describe Niles as a homeless man with a police record. There are active cases in Brooklyn for criminal possession of stolen property and criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. According to the Daily News, the defendant told police he has been living in a rehab facility and a homeless shelter and is suicidal. Niles has been placed on suicide watch. He’s due back in court on the Lower East Side charges on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, high powered lights have been set up in the area around the bandshell and police have stepped up patrols. Residents have long complained about poor security and lighting in the area.
May 28, 2015 | Here’s a shot of the playing fields at East River Park | Weather: A mix of clouds and sun with afternoon thunderstorms possible and a high of 85 | Happening Today: It’s the kickoff of the New Museum’s Ideas City | Send us your photos and tips | Subscribe to our daily email | Please consider our Small Business Survival Campaign.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015 | Spring colors are bursting in Corlears Hook Park, as you can see from this photo submitted by Greta Cohen | Weather: After yesterday’s deluge, we’ll see mostly sunny skies and a high of 68 | Happening Today: The Street Vendor Project honors iconic Lower East Side business Yonah Schimmel | Send us your photos and news tips | Subscribe to our daily email.
Friday, March 20, 2015 | Eli Friedmann took this photo along FDR Drive near the Williamsburg Bridge | Weather: To usher in the first day of spring, we’re expecting a snow storm. Flakes start falling around noon with 4-6 inches expected. Look for a high of 38. Partly sunny tomorrow with a high of 51. Mostly sunny Sunday and 45 | Happening Today: Gallery openings at Sargent’s Daughters and Nicelle Beauchene | Send us your photos and tips | Subscribe to our daily email.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015 | Today’s photo offers a glimpse of the big thaw in progress inside East River Park | Weather: Rain showers expected this afternoon. Otherwise, we’ll see cloudy skies and a high of 52. We may top 60 tomorrow! | Happening Today: Vendors go before Community Board 3’s land use committee to propose a change in management at the Essex Street Market, Seward Park Extension, 56 Essex St., 6:30 p.m. | Send us your photos and tips | Subscribe to our daily email.