Wednesday, July 22, 2020

New brief says city must stop plans to raze East River Park

Opponents of the city's plan to demolish East River Park provided an update on their lawsuit in a new brief filed yesterday.

Via the EVG inbox:

Without state oversight, New York City could demolish East River Park and build a levee but would not be obliged to return the entire 1.2 mile riverfront to parkland. The city could also exceed its five-year construction timeline.

Those are two of the reasons why state oversight is needed for the massive $1.45 billion flood control project, says a brief filed July 20. The document is a response to the city’s argument that state approval is not needed.

The lawsuit, East River Park Action et al v City of New York, originally filed in February, asks to halt the East Side Coastal Resiliency project that is scheduled to begin this fall. It also asks to declare the City Council vote last November approving the project “null and void.”

Attorney Arthur Schwartz with the nonprofit Advocates for Justice argues in July 20's 42-page brief that the city is required to seek Alienation from the state. Alienation is the use of parkland for non-park purposes, even for brief periods.

Schwartz notes that "Closing the East River Park, whether completely or in phases, will disproportionately affect the health and well-being and recreational opportunities of low-income New Yorkers who live in the neighborhood around the Park."

Schwartz, a West 12th Street resident, previously filed lawsuits against the city's 14th Street Busway.

You can read more about Alienation of Parkland, the basis of the lawsuit, at this link.

Last November, City Council signed off on the hotly contested flood-protection plan that will bury/elevate East River Park by eight feet as part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. Construction is now expected to start this fall.


Meanwhile, tomorrow night, there's a candlelight vigil set for the Park.

Via the EVG inbox:

"We are gathering in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, specifically against the ecocide that continues to harm Black and Indigenous lives globally; to grieve the thousands of lives, neighbors and loved ones lost to COVID'19; and to come together in protection of land, trees, and the wellness of our community on the Lower East Side,” says vigil organizer Emily Johnson, an artist in residence at Abrons Arts Center and a land and water protector from the Yup'ik Nation.

"In the center of a pandemic the city will destroy the Lower East Side’s only large outdoor green space for wellness and exercise, raise toxic dust and cut down 1,000 trees, reducing air quality and putting residents — especially elders and those who are immunocompromised — at greater risk for and with COVID-19," says Johnson.

The procession starts at 7 p.m. at the Abrons Arts Center amphitheater. Details and directions at this link.

Previously on EV Grieve:
• Opinion: COVID-19 + Storm Surge = Catastrophe for the Lower East Side and East Village (Feb. 7)

• More details on the city's new plan to keep East River Park partially open during flood protection construction (Oct. 3, 2019)

• At the march and rally to save East River Park (Sept. 21, 2019)

• An annual reunion in East River Park (Aug. 4, 2019)

• A visit to East River Park (July 10, 2019)


Alpha Whiskey said...

I don't want the East River Park to change, but I don't understand how we can really argue against the necessity of this project. If the purpose to protect Manhattan against floods due to rising sea levels, we kind of have to do it don't we?

I'm fine with arguing for more concrete requirements to return it to parkland once it's raised, or the timeline, or specifics, but other than that it seems like denying climate change for the sake of nostalgia. I may be wrong.

(Somewhat unrelated, but why would anyone be against the 14th street bus lane, hasn't that been a success and a step towards a Manhattan with less cars/traffic?)

Anonymous said...

They won't cancel this "project", the corruption around it is too deep.

Anonymous said...

OTOH, the city now has no money, so how are they going to pay for this project? I'm betting it gets "postponed" (AKA cancelled). Then it's an item for a future mayor.

Anonymous said...

@Alpha - no one is denying climate change or saying flood protection is not necessary. There was an original plan agreed upon that would have installed flood protection while preserving and improving much of the park. Then BDB decided to scrap that plan without any community consultation in order to give this contract to his cronies. It's too long to go into here, but this 'plan' that he is currently pushing is nothing more than corruption and doesn't even offer the short or long-term benefits of the original plan. This has nothing to do with flood protection and everything to do with preserving the FDR and real estate interests.

Anonymous said...

The previous plan didn’t involve razing the park, there were barriers under/next to the FDR. They decided to raise the park over shutting down a lane on the FDR.

Anonymous said...

I really hope they cancel this project the East River Park has been a savior for me to get out of my apartment during the NYC shutdown and walk along the river bank and sit in a shady area to gaze at the green murky river water and watch the different boats like the sail boats and jet skies go by. All the residents of the City and especially the EV/LES need this park as a peaceful refuge to escape to.

Anonymous said...

Schwartz’s argument was that it would cause pollution on side streets near 14th, like the one he lives on in a multi-million dollar home. It was pure NIMBY-ism with altruistic window dressings.

I think the best argument I’ve heard about storm protection is to reconsider the model: make the FDR a tunnel which serves as a stormwall and provides better pedestrian access to the park

Anonymous said...

This lawsuit will go nowhere

Anonymous said...

I second Alpha Whiskey's point but with less patience for this group. No one wants to rip up parkland, but does this group understand climate change? Were they not here during Sandy when it was those living in NYCHA and people of color who were disproportionately affected by the flooding? For Christ's sake, choose your battles. It's not ideal no - but you know what's worse? Thousands of people losing their homes and livelihoods to floods - which WILL happen and cannot be restored - where's your park then? If this group would just consider science and reason once in while instead of constantly looking for a fight with the City. How about supporting some of these measures instead of holding them up? This whole group stopped thinking progressively past 1987.

Anonymous said...

If they have money allocated for this colossal mistake, the city can utilize that money to assist NYC during the COVID crisis instead of ripping apart something so treasured and beloved.

Anonymous said...

@10:12am: I live on one of those side streets, and I DON'T live in a multi-million-dollar home, not even close! Plenty of renters live on these streets, and Schwartz is 100% correct that the 14th St. busway has shifted a lot more traffic onto 12th and 13th Streets. That is a FACT (one of those inconvenient things!). I see the effects of the busway every day, right outside my window.

Anonymous said...

I really hope they just build a wall or whatever instead. Seems egregious to completely demolish all the natural nature that has developed over so many years.
It will become a fake, over-policed park like the West Side Highway. It's not the same feel.

Anonymous said...

WHy can't they just build a wall right next to the FDR? Why even have to shut down a lane of the vital roadway? There's gotta be a way.

Anonymous said...

10:32 AM

Definitely read up on the controversy going forward, because it is an important decision to be made by the city. It is not a case of this project v no project. It is this project compared to a different project, both which will provide protection to the LES from future storm surges. In fact, the original project appears on its face to be more protective. But the original project will keep the park open during construction AND costs hundreds of millions of dollars less.

Anonymous said...


And I almost forgot, the original project would have been completed much earlier than this new project. Providing protection years ahead of the current schedule.

Anonymous said...

If there is one thing we have learned from BLM, it is that direct action works. With the park closing, a very bad idea during the second wave in the fall, can we expect to see results from sulky leaders after a series of strident and determined sit ins, roadway blockages, civil disobedience on the precious FDR?

Anonymous said...

NYC is not only besieged by corruption and greed, it is in quite a precarious spot with many businesses still shut down aside its unemployed residents. Neighbors alike with merchants should be able to seek aid and assistance with billions of dollars already directed towards the raising of East Side River Park. We have so many going off a cliff with famine and homelessness on the horizon unless we are granted stimulus from the government. To my understanding this was federally supported and mandated by Mayor DeBlassio who is apparently an ardent proponent of its demolition. Shocking, right? Pardon my french, but he doesn't give two shits about the people in our city, our police force, especially those of whom in our community that consider this park to be a beautiful and much needed respite. We only have so many places to escape against the buildings, the summer humidity, and the quarantine fever we are all facing. Given the state of our city, I fear what it will look like if this goes through. There has to be another way to address coastal flooding without destroying precious land. Why can't we contact Holland and see what mechanisms they have adopted since most of that county is below sea level.

Jill W said...

At one of the info sessions a while back, I was told by one of the engineers that the assumption is that the park is going to flood in the next 20 years or so (from memory) and we will lose most of the existing old trees anyway. We lost many during Sandy due to salt water inundation. Also one of their mandates is to provide ball fields that will be protected from flood water. Also, budgeting...usually you don't just get to move money earmarked for one thing over to something else. Federal money is allocated for this and the city does have to put some in too, but we'd lose the fed money if we don't do the project. Last I heard there was a deadline to use it.

Personally I'd rather have a park that can flood, and absorb & protect the neighborhood. But you'd have to spend $$ re-doing the ball fields each time that happened. Or not have ball fields, and apparently those aren't acceptable outcomes.

Anonymous said...

With the new budget crisis (thank you Mayor De Idioso) it is doubtful they can save the city from the rising tide of crime let alone the rising tide.

Anonymous said...

and all the NYCHA buildings are getting separate flood protection being built right now.

MTAtoxic said...

Cutting down thousands of trees and gutting the areas largest green space to deal with the effects of climate change- sounds like a plan!

Anonymous said...

This is the worst plan out of all the plans to protect the LES and EV. This is the plan that has no community input or engagement, and that will produce the most net carbon emissions and most negative impact on local health. The number of mature trees and biodiversity that will be destroyed is jaw dropping. But overall, to close sections of the park and start construction DURING AN ACTIVE PANDEMIC is INSANE. That this terrible plan is going forward IN SEPTEMBER shows how little Carlina Rivera, Margaret Chin or Bill de Blasio care about the communities who currently live in the LES and EV. It really feels like they just want to clear us out, ruthlessly, to make room for a wave of real estate developers who think that an ugly sterile seawall with a few tiny trees might add any value to the area. Remember this travesty when you vote!

Unknown said...

We are hip to the manipulation of political and real estate interest. Don't let them destroy the park for new buildings for a view. No to desecration of our beloved park. you won't shave off ten blocks off of Central park. Sad.

Unknown said...

if you find yourself on the size of schwartz... you're probably a NIMBY

the park is not being "destroyed", it's being rebuilt