East Side Coastal Resiliency Project leaders grilled in City Council hearing

Residents of Lower East Side continue to reject the city’s proposal to raise the East River Park by 10 feet to mitigate the effects of climate change. (Photo: Mark Hallum/The Villager)

BY MARK HALLUM | The question of how to protect lower Manhattan from the threat of rising sea levels is still up in the air, as activists and city officials debated the merits of raising East River Park to defend against sea level rise.

A Thursday hearing at City Hall saw no disagreement that something had to be done, but compromise on how climate change should be combatted was hard to come by.

The East Side Coastal Resiliency Project aims to protect 2.4 miles of coastline from Montgomery Street to East 25th Street, according to the city, but plans to raise East River Park by 10 feet and provide additional buffering against 100-year storms and global sea-rise projected for 2050.

Thursday’s Landmarks Committee hearing had the latest on the plan, though there was very little to placate the feeling that the city was subjecting residents of the Lower East Side to a “land grab.”

Councilwoman Carlina Rivera said survival of the city depends on “bold solutions” considering how the city suffered through $19 billion of damage from Superstorm Sandy and that the project will mitigate future disasters.

Rivera claims her decision on the project could be the most important of her career in consideration to climate change events currently taking place across the globe.

“This is a stark reality we face as we consider the East Coast Resiliency Project,” Rivera said.

Rivera later flipped the script and said the DDC and the city must make a greater effort at transparency.

The green-space is over 60 acres with over 100 trees, according to East River Park ACTION, a group which contends that it serves as a vital sanctuary for NYCHA residents who struggle with asthma. The group also argued that even phased construction of the resiliency effort would have physical and mental impacts on the nearby residents who claim to suffer enough living near the FDR Drive.

Councilwoman Margaret Chin acknowledged that the impacts on her Chinatown-based district in voicing her support for the project.

According to Chin, the administration assured her that 42 percent of the park would remain open during the construction effort.

Lorraine Grillo, Commissioner of the city Department of Design and Construction, claimed access to recreation must be a priority while the city attempts to meet a 2023 deadline.

The crowd hissed at city Department of Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver as he argued that 258 trees were removed from the park recently because of their inability to cope with soil salinization already effecting the park.

It was not the only outburst from the crowd during Silver’s address to the committee and the sergeant at arms walked down aisle collecting protest signs.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said construction would start in March 2020 and be done in phases to keep parts of the park open, out of consideration to the community.

“The community spoke and we listened,” de Blasio said in a statement Wednesday. “Nearly half of East River Park will remain open throughout construction – without compromising essential flood protections for 110,000 New Yorkers. We are building a more resilient city to meet the challenge of global warming head-on.”

The 2.4 miles of waterfront is the lowest stretch along the East River and poses the greatest threat to up to 110,000 people in the adjacent communities, according to a project representative at the hearing.

Delancey Street to Houston Street will remain open during the first phase of the project along with section including the amphitheater to the south. The section from East 10th to East 12th Street in the north will also remain open in the first 2 and a half year period.

The esplanade, which will contain the bulk of the most complicated work, according to the DDC, will be the final phase before over 50 percent of the park will reopen.

Sand, clay and gravel used for fill would be heavily regulated by the state and federal government for safety, a rep from the project said.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer urged the city to hold any major decisions on the project until after an independent environmental study is completed, stressing the importance of including residents in the future of their community.

A community task force has still not been established as promised by the city, according to Brewer.

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez said the project is a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to protect against future storms and flooding.

4 Responses to East Side Coastal Resiliency Project leaders grilled in City Council hearing

  1. Correction to the above article. It is actually nearly 1,000 trees. Not 100!

  2. We weren’t booing about the trees that were storm damaged and removed. The administration slandered the 1,000 currently surviving trees in East River Park. They contended that these old trees are at the end of their lives anyway and would be killed by a flood. There are many magnificent elms, oaks, London Planes and other beautiful trees in the prime of life, and they’re all Hurricane Sandy survivors.

    Trees that are damaged in a storm should be replaced as they fail, not while they are in their big shady form as they are now. New trees should be saltwater resilient. In the meantime, we should construct flood protection in a way that will preserve as much of the park as possible as a floodable park that will recover.

    We also jeered when one of the officials said the promenade has already flooded and has had to be closed numerous times. That’s completely untrue. It was closed during Hurricane Sandy. That’s it.

    The administration is using terrible arguments to promote their terrible plan.

  3. I’m one of the many advocates trying to save the East River Park from total Destruction in Mark Hallum photograph for this article.

    I was holding the crime scene photos protest signs, which weren’t taken away from me. What’s being taken away is a neglected but beautiful and tranquil 60 acre park serving the people since 1939.

    At the Oct 3rd City Hall meeting there was so many people against this destruction, that we were limited to only two minutes to voice our opinions.
    The only the Council Member left to listen to our protests; also has the most important vote, it was District #2 Council Member Ms. Carlina Rivera (212-677-1077). We all clearly stated to her, with our valid complaints to Vote NO against this destructive plan.

    I stated how can you save something by totally destroying it? You can’t, the bulldozing of over 1,000 mature trees, many over 80 feet and years old, plus the associated wildlife is an environmental hazard. What’s in 80 year old soil and dust that will float around the City, while East River Park is riven to pieces?

    While the city promises to keep at least 42% of the Park open, will you want to run, bicycle, plays sports, while this toxic pollution is floating around?

    The original and common sense plan was to build a Sea Wall along the whole length east-end of FDR Drive. So why did the city change gears and will build a Sea Wall to 14th St.; then stop and then resume the Sea Wall again past Corlears Hook?

    Why would you destroy 2 miles of beautiful scenery, wildlife, and take away free and healthy activities for all the people and instead City Hall decides to use 19th Century technology and build a Levee that will cost more money and is more hazardous, and totally destructive?

    The Sea Wall along the FDR would stop any damage to the area and future improvements could later be added, such as to tunnel in the FDR and build promenade over it; like the Highline of the East Side.

    The East River Park survived Hurricane Sandy and rising of water levels will take decades or longer, but technology will improve the current Levee Plan and if a chance Category 5 Hurricane hit the park, let Mother Nature do the destruction; not the city. There is no guarantee the new design will fare any better than 1939 Robert Mosses design.

    On personal level this Park gives much happiness to thousands of people and creatures. Ms. Carlina Rivera (212-677-1077) stated at the City Hall Meeting how she grew up in this park. I ask her; do you remember all the birthday parties, barbecues, dancing at the Amphitheater, playgrounds, sports, little league, bicycling, and free fun and exercise. Where are these people supposed to go; to the Hamptons?

    In good conscience Ms. Carlina Rivera, vote against this terrible plan of destruction. I ask whoever reads this, to call her and tell her to VOTE NO.

    Regards,
    Andre Dupuis

    P.S. This total destruction plan of E.R.P. would not fly; if this was Battery Park City, Riverside Park, or if Jackie O or someone of importance was against it, so looks like land grab to me.

  4. Dear Council Member Ms. Rivera,

    I’m one of the many advocates trying to save the East River Park from total Destruction in Mark Hallum photograph for this article (attached) regarding the Oct 3, 2019 City Hall Meeting.

    I was holding the crime scene photos protest signs, which weren’t taken away from me. What’s being taken away is a neglected but beautiful and tranquil 60 acre park serving the people since 1939.

    At the Oct 3rd City Hall meeting there was so many people against this destruction, that we were limited to only two minutes to voice our opinions.

    You were only the Council Member left to listen to our protests; you also have the most important vote as District #2 Council Member and this your community, Vote NO.

    We all clearly stated to you, with our valid complaints to Vote NO against this destructive plan. I stated, “how can you save something by totally destroying it?”

    You can’t, the bulldozing of over 1,000 mature trees, many over 80 feet and years old, plus the associated wildlife is an environmental hazard. What’s in 80 year old soil and dust that will float around the City, while East River Park is riven to pieces?

    While the city promises to keep at least 42% of the Park open, will you want to run, bicycle, plays sports, while this toxic pollution is floating around?

    The original and common sense plan was to build a Sea Wall along the whole length east-end of FDR Drive. So why did the city change gears and will build a Sea Wall to 14th St.; then stop and then resume the Sea Wall again past Corlears Hook? What’s the logic behind this?

    Why would you destroy 2 miles of beautiful scenery, wildlife, and take away free and healthy activities for all the people and instead City Hall decides to use 19th Century technology and build a Levee that will cost more money and is more hazardous, and totally destructive?

    The Sea Wall along the FDR would stop any damage to the area and future improvements could later be added; such as to tunnel in the FDR and build promenade over it; like a new Highline of the East Side.

    The East River Park survived Hurricane Sandy and rising of water levels will take decades or longer, but technology will improve the current Levee Plan and if a chance Category 5 Hurricane hit the park, let Mother Nature do the destruction; not the city. There is no guarantee the new design will fare any better than 1939 Robert Moses design in a Category 5 event.

    On personal level this Park gives much happiness to thousands of people many who are your constitutes and too many creatures of all sorts. You, Ms. Carlina Rivera stated at the City Hall Meeting how you grew up in this park.

    I ask you; do you remember all the birthday parties, barbecues, dancing at the Amphitheater, playgrounds, sports, little league, bicycling, and free fun and exercise?

    Where are these people supposed to go; to the Hamptons? In good conscience Ms. Carlina Rivera, vote NO and come out against this terrible plan of destruction.

    I attached the full crime scene photos of the entire East River Park for prosperity sake, let hope you don’t vote to destroy it.

    Regards,

    Andre Dupuis

    P.S. This total destruction plan of E.R.P. would not fly; if this was Battery Park City, Riverside Park, or if Jackie O or someone of importance was against it, so looks like land grab to me and to most other people in your district. All it takes one brave and a person of importance and character to stand up to this boondoggle.

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