OPINION: Carlina, listen to us on East River Park

A rendering of how a major storm surge would allegedly impact the running track in East River Park at E. Sixth St. under the city’s previous coastal-resiliency plan.

BY PAT ARNOW | East River Park ACTION has been urging people to call City Councilmember Carlina Rivera to voice opposition to the plan to close and demolish East River Park.

A few who did have reported that Rivera’s office staff is trying to talk them out of their position on this destructive flood-control plan. It sounds like the councilmember has made up her mind to support the plan and has instructed staffers to convince callers to change their minds —rather than being open to changing her mind when presented with passionate, well-informed positions from your constituents.

One person who opposes the plan said that a Rivera staffer “spent 15 minutes trying to convince me of how great the plan is, how much community input was taken and kind of brushing me off because I haven’t been in all the community board meetings to appreciate the scope and breath of that consultation with the community.”

It is inaccurate to imply that the community supports this plan. The caller might not have been at meetings, but I sure have, and if Rivera was listening, she heard a resounding No.

A rendering of how the E. Sixth St. running track would allegedly withstand a storm surge under the city’s revised coastal-resiliency plan, which would raise all of East River Park by burying it under 10 feet of new soil.

At the Community Board 3 meeting in June, for instance, 70 people testified, and 67 were against the flood-control plan in whole or in part — in large part!

The testimony at that meeting was passionate, heartfelt and cogent. It touched on everything, from losing recreation for our kids, who might then get into mischief, to losing biodiversity, shade, a place to exercise, a route for biking and walking, a shady picnic area, and a place to cleanse the air and soothe the soul.

From our canvassing in the park and around the neighborhood, we’ve learned that most residents don’t know about the plan to demolish the park, and when they hear details, they are horrified. Their community leaders, who support the plan, don’t bother to meet with them. What “community” is Rivera listening to?

The person who called the councilmember’s office went on, regarding her call with the staffer: “She told me several times that there were ‘factions in the neighborhood spreading misinformation.’” If there’s any inaccurate information coming from the faction called East River Park ACTION, please let us know. We will be happy to correct it.

Councilmember Carlina Rivera outside her East Village district office on E. Third St. (Photo by Lincoln Anderson)

However, is it misinformation to say that the park will be closed for years? That the park will be completely demolished? That the city has not promised one inch of phased construction? That even if it did, phased construction would still destroy the entire park? That the alternate parks and recreation spaces that the city has offered are paltry, sad and cruel: Take away the skateboard area of Tompkins Square Park! Take away the hockey field in Two Bridges! Hey, bikers, just go over to First and Second Aves., which are already crowded. Timelines? “We’re working on them,” we are told. Realistic timelines? Absolutely not!

(At least we’re now hearing the Tompkins skateboarding area might possibly be saved.)

Another caller who talked to a different Rivera staffer said, “She basically spent an hour trying to make Alternative 4 [what the city calls the ‘Preferred Plan’] palatable to me. I kept telling her how destroying the park and raising it up 10 feet would offer no additional flood protection than a barrier wall along the F.D.R. She just would not listen to any of my talking points and kept trying to find a concession that ‘would make me happier about the project.’”

Councilmember Rivera, please tell us that you will not support anything until after an expert external review has evaluated the plan, including timelines and environmental issues — as you and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer have demanded in the past. Please tell us that you know that the city is not reliable about construction timelines — or providing alternate park spaces and greenways. Please tell us that you won’t support a plan that hasn’t publicly given you a single meaningful concession almost a year after the city announced the plan, even though you yourself have repeatedly demanded accommodations.

East River Park ACTION supports working out a plan that will preserve much of the park while also offering flood protection. Carlina, if you will keep an open mind, we’d like to persuade you that it can be done, and you can be a hero of the New Green Deal rather than the politician who will oversee a vast mud pit for years.

Please listen to your constituents.

Arnow is a member, East River Park ACTION (http://eastriverparkaction.org)

27 Responses to OPINION: Carlina, listen to us on East River Park

  1. WE NEED PROTECTION RIVER TO RIVER FROM FLOODINGS IN MANHATTAN N Y C

    • Yes we do! We don’t have to close and demolish the entire park to get it. An earlier plan the city worked on with the community would have offered the same flood protection but preserved much of the park.

    • Agreed.

      But we do not need to cut out the heart of the LES to achieve

      this. The city’s plan is wrong. Do we really need to create

      an environmental disaster in order to feel better protected from

      another Sandy. The city should have handled it better with

      more temporary protection at the time. It has been estimated

      by Carlina Rivera’s office that it might take 10 years to complete.

    • Thanks for writing this, Pat! In the LES we hardly spend time inside our tiny, tenement-building apartments. East River Park is not only a place for respite and recreation; it’s where we (and all manner of wildlife and irreplaceable, historic trees) LIVE. Urge the City to return to the plan (carefully arrived at with LES residents over a period of years) to make a barrier wall against possible floods along the FDR, rather than going with the surprise plan the City announced late last year to bulldoze and utterly flatten this precious two and a half mile stretch of land–our habitat. The new, environmentally ill-conceived plan that would hasten the displacement of low-income families in the area reeks of greed. And there’s no way a new park on 8-10 feet of landfill could take root in the 3.5 years promised by the City. (Remember the East River Park closing from the 1990s to 2011 to fix the potholes in the coastal walkway? The southeast quarter of nearby Tompkins Park has been closed for over a year for the mere renovation of children’s playgrounds, cutting off vital green space and pedestrian arteries in our hard-to-access neighborhood.) The newly proposed McPark would replace (with pavement and astroturf) historic plantings enjoyed and maintained by the immigrants, laborers, thinkers and artists the have shaped our unique neighborhood, in many ways, the birthplace of our nation.

    • We certainly need protection from flooding—and climate change, which is going to be a huge threat and challenge. Even the flood-protection proposed is probably not even enough to shield us from ending up under water in the coming years.

      But the plan to demolish East River Park is just wrong-headed and represents a throwing-out-the-baby-with-the-bathwater approach. I, personally, would welcome a plan that allows more community input and shows regard for views of constituents.

  2. This editorial sounds like the same kind of self-important obstructionism that I faced when I was working with my neighbors and Councilmember Christine Quinn to transform Abingdon Square Park from a dreary, unsafe asphalt triangle into a green jewel of the West Village and a safe community gathering space. In meeting after meeting, we had to face people who also testified in great numbers, who made very similar erroneous and misleading statements:

    “It will take longer than the schedule says it will! They always do!” It didn’t. The project was completed ahead of schedule.

    “It will create environmental hazards; the dust will fly everywhere.” The demolition and construction was responsible.

    “It will cost many times more than the budget calls for.” The entire project cost about 1/4 of what the obstructionists claimed.

    And my favorite: “The Abingdon Square Doughboy” is going to be dumped in the Hudson River to be used as landfill.” The Philip Martiny sculpture was meticulously restored and relocated to a much more visible location in Abingdon Sq.

    “I kept telling her (Councilmember Rivera) how destroying the park and raising it up 10 feet would offer no additional flood protection than a barrier wall along the F.D.R.” How do you know that the plan will not work better than a barrier wall? Are you saying that you prefer a claustrophobic wall over a redesigned park? How do you know that Parks Department engineers haven’t considered many different plans and then settled on this one? When you state your opinions as facts, you may be delaying or preventing New York City from protecting itself from catastrophic flooding that we know for a fact is coming.

    Climate change is real. Apparently, so is obstructionism for its own sake.

    • Abington Square is 0.25 acres. The City’s plan will destroy >80 acres of East River shoreline (Montgomery St. to 25 St). One cannot predict the other. In addition… the opponents of the City’s plan have spent months wading through the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The four “action” plans offer exactly the same degree of flood protection to the community (not adequate, in my opinion).

  3. She is in the pocket of Bill deBlasio and the real estate industry. her first ULURP vote and rather than stand up for the community and get a win win like Rosie Mendez would have done, she totally flip flopped and capitulated to a crooked deal for the Tech Hub fully funded by the Mayor’s donors with crumbs for the community. And she did not have to do that. Spoke much about how she would be and her absurd support for destroying the park again for some crumbs is sad and speaks to the state of fake progressives. All rah rah on the national issues and Trump but on local issues they act no different with lies, propaganda and an agenda of the real estate lobby. And she surrounds herself with sycophants.

    If this plan was at all for one second about flood protection we would see similar efforts and pans let’s say RIGHT ACROSS THE RIVER IN BROOKLYN. But we see no such plans across the very same river. Instead we see TOWERS. Guess what the new East River Park will have one day, just a tower or two so we can pay for the park and make it great again. SAD!

    • Good points Pat!

      Once Carlina got on the Parks Committee in June, that was it. It’s interesting to note, when efforts were made to crack down on illegal short term rentals, she introduced a bill in June 2018 that required companies like Airbnb to report host data to the city. De Blasio signed a bill into law that the council passed. She’s been with the city right along. Despite what she says, she doesn’t care and will support de Blasio’s dangerous -to the health – and expensive plan.

      People’s health should have priority in this neighborhood. Releasing airborne contaminants and dust particles will exacerbate existing medical conditions and pave the way for litigation.

      Building a barrier along the FDR is the least expensive and most logical way to stop potential future flooding and protect vulnerable residents health.

  4. As 15 year residents of Peter Cooper Village, we totally agree that the proposed plan is not a good one and will do as much harm to the community with noise, dirt, and loss of our outdoor space as hurricane sandy did. It seems an incredible opportunity for graft and money making. It took years to build one small bridge in the park, and this is supposed to be able to happen in 3.5 years? Really? The dirt and disruption and the loss of our beautiful park is not worth whatever this plan proports to do. We fully support eh East River Park ACTION group wanting to preserve as much of the park as possible, while still offering flood protection.
    .

  5. She’s not going to listen to the community. She will listen to what de Blasio tells her to do.

  6. Frontline communities need social surge protection!

    Join the rally and take #ClimateAction this month –
    Saturday, 9/21: Noon – March from Tompkins Sq Park (noisemakers & costumes welcome) to East River Park.

    Rally at 1:30 at the riverside Reflections Labyrinth, north of Williamsburg Bridge.Get more details at http://eastriverparkaction.org

  7. “East River Park ACTION supports working out a plan that will preserve much of the park while also offering flood protection.”
    — then tell us what that plan is. just saying No without an alternative makes you no better than the council member. Please, put your cards on the table or risk losing the support of those of us who don’t attend all the meetings. We’ll just ignore both sides, if you continue to act in the same politicized ways.

    • A plan exists. Alternative 2 in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, a wall along the FDR Drive, would provide the same flood protection but preserve 70 percent of the park. It costs much less, $445 million vs. the $1.45 billion for the current plan. It would allow for future decking over the FDR to provide more park space and protect the neighborhood from vehicle emissions.

      • While the de Blasio administration aggressively pursues its scheme to “save” the community from flooding by destroying the ENTIRE East River Park, this same administration attempted to greenlight the construction of four more 80 story megatowers in the Lower East Side and Chinatown waterfront and flood plain. The community only stopped this outrageous plan by exerting enormous pressure on their elected officials to oppose it and by going to court to stop it. We have to unite with all the communities around the city, including the folks in Brooklyn and Queens where new megatowers are going up every day, to stop this mad overdevelopment of buildings and shorelines. Next Saturday September 21 12pm Tompkins Square Park- march with us to Save East River Park!

  8. Will the NEW park in East River see any Park Police? They used to work only in non-summer months, now they have been gone for years. Do we not need anyone looking after the rules in the park? Look at the piles of used charcoal sitting on the lawns everwhere. Off topic but a pet peeve.

  9. Closing the park for an extended period of time, gutting the spirit of a thriving multi-cultural neighborhood, and a bureaucracy with unaccountable decision makers is the hallmark of Robert Moses.

    The park and neighborhood have grown together through the years and it’s the heart of culture in the East Village. I doubt there is a park in NYC used by such a diverse, vibrant community.

    Having recently taking a stroll across the river through Domino Park, it’s clear the new East River Park’s design is a mirror image of that bland and shady-less “transformation.” Yes, there are many, many trees. Perhaps they will be able to cast some useful shade in 20-20 years.

    There was an existing plan to transform the FDR and adjacent parts. What happened? Robert Moses deified highways. I would hope if we knew then what we know now about climate change and it’s contributors, even he would have considered any alternative to prioritizing a mature shade tree over a highway.

    And to the self-important commenter that should be applauded for helping transform a neighborhood park, that park is .25 acres and East River Park is 45 acres. There’s 180 more chances for a SNAFU.

  10. I have lived on the Lower East Side for over a decade and have yet to meet a single resident who is in favor this plan. It is incomprehensible that it is moving forward.

  11. crazytalk! for our reviewers who live along East River park, the park is highlighted as THE MAIN ATTRACTION to living in the area’s buildings on gohomeny.com. Check out real estate reviews for NYC apartment buildings on gohomeny!

  12. I am shocked that Carlina Rivera is supporting this preposterous plan. It’s like a councilmember from the Upper West Side endorsing the leveling of Central Park.

  13. Dear White People. Please check your privilege. 10,000 families of color lost access to their homes during the last flood which this plan will now protect. But you’re just concerned about where you’ll walk your dog or bring your compost for the next 3 1/2 years. This is a good plan

    • This plan offers NO flood protection to the neighborhood during the years of construction. That will be many more than the 3 1/2 years the city says the entire demolition and rebuilding will take–because since when does the city finish anything on time?

      We are demanding interim flood protection.

      We are demanding a plan that will give us flood protection with the least amount of destruction of the park as possible. Our neighborhood has high asthma rates and people who suffer from upper respiratory problems even years after 9/11. The drastic plan the city wants to do will deprive us of the trees that help cleanse the air of toxins, it will stir up soil contaminated with arsenic, lead, and other dangerous chemicals that have lain there quietly or years since this was an industrial district. It will fill our lungs with particulate matter from the landfill that will be dumped for years to build up the extra 8-10 feet for the park.

      All of us in the neighborhood are going to get screwed by the city’s current plan. Let’s stick together and get a better plan.

  14. Not a good plan. NYCHA housing will suffer, because once the East River Park is torn down,and rebuilt according to Carlina Rivera’s plan, the entire LES will be thrown open to gentrification. Next will come “middle class” towers in NYCHA parking and playground areas. Then the city will condemn NYCHA housing entirely, as the value of real estate near the gentrified park will have soared. Far more than 10,000 people of color, or of any race, will be displaced from their homes by condos affordable only to the 1%? If you are in doubt, look what happened, and is continuing to happen, near Hudson River Park and the High Line. It can, and will, happen here if the park is torn down.

  15. Like many large government projects this is about money, not about the merits. Who will the City of New York, with the Mayor and Carlina’s approval, give the contract to build this project to and how much money will be a payoff back to the Mayor and Carlina and the rest of the crooks ?

    Do you think that NYCHA is in such bad shape because they don’t have enough money or they don’t know what they are doing ? No, they know exactly what they are doing, politicians syphoning off as much money as they can at the tenants peril.

    Look at old PS64. Our plan was to build our development rights we bought at auction from the City of New York. The plan was to donate $2 million of the cash flow from the project each year to the local nonprofits in CB3 all from a privately funded project. There would be no real estate tax exemption and no government financing or any other government benefit. Instead of the City politicians saying this is the greatest public-private partnership, the private guy gives $2 million a year from the cash flow of his privately owned building and the government gives nothing, they say we are not going to let this guy do that because we don’t get any money for our pocket. So what do they do, accept money from Aaron Sosnick, of A.R.T. Advisors of Caxton Hedge Fund to landmark the building and downzone the area so the nonprofit community doesn’t get the $2 million each year or the planned 10,000 sq. ft. of community space in the building with its own private entrance. Sosnick has donated millions to politicians and local nonprofits to be against the renovation of the building for any use unless it is owned by Aaron Sosnick. Heck, Sosnick, Michael Rosen and some other cronies even donated money to the foreclosure judge. Sosnick also donates approximately $10 million each year in a blind fund thru Fidelity Investments. How much do you think of that money is to payoff politicians ? Look what he got caught doing in Los Angeles funneling money to Mayor Eric Garcetti. You can Google it.

    The politicians greatest hoax has to be “we need a community center “. When the Boys Club of New York came up for sale, one block away from old PS64, I offered to buy it and lease it back to the City of New York because everyone was saying we need a community center. Well of course we know what happened next. The City said we don’t need a community center and Aaron Sosnick bought it for his private investment, not a community center. Do you think all the politicians in Sosnick’s pocket went crazy protesting him ? No they said nothing. The sad thing for the 300 kids that go to the boys club is they have a newly renovated swimming pool, basketball court, art rooms, play rooms etc which will all go away soon because the politicians will do anything for their boy Sosnick. Corruption at its best in the East Village.

    PLEASE VOTE IN THE NEXT ELECTION FOR ABC, ANYTHING BUT CARLINA. Just maybe you can find a politician that actually cares about the community. You will have to convince the union members to vote against the union bosses candidate and be strong. Unfortunately some of that NYCHA money trickles into the pockets of the people managing each NYCHA project in the building and they push all their tenants, alot of which are union members, to vote for the union picked candidate and then the money flows.

    The above is from my opinion of seeing how the corruption works in the East Village over the past 20 years.

    Best of luck ?

    Gregg Singer

  16. I agree that a better plan is possible. The park is an invaluable asset to all of us who live in the city and thrive on having it as a place to exercise and build community. Walking the park adds a lot to my life! ALSO, I feel with some creative strategy we can find a solution that protects the city from flooding while still giving us parts of the park to enjoy.

  17. So sad to see a young politician who came in with promise sucked up by the DeBlasio-corporate real estate machine that runs this city. Follow the money and the connection of AECOM that has its fingers in all the water front pies.
    https://sunsetparkreports.wordpress.com/tag/aecom/ AECOM is also paid to manage the transformation of the jails from Riker Islands to the 4 borough jails which has a total price tag of 31 billion dollars.
    And see AECOM proposing to rebuild Red Hook.
    https://www.6sqft.com/aecom-wants-to-turn-red-hook-waterfront-into-a-45000-unit-mega-development/
    Use the magic words of “affordable housing” and DeBlasio and the bought off city council will approve it. Just wait until they run out of money on the East River project and big real estate says we can put up some towers with some affordable housing and pay PILOTS to get the park finished. “Under their plan, the sale or lease of land to developers, would fund the aforementioned infrastructure projects.” Why is the city allowing more building by the water front at the same time they are working on coastal resiliency projects? It is some kind of insanity sponsored by the real estate and financial industries. It is time to retreat from the water front not build more high rises on it as proposed by Two Bridges!

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