A value engineering study, an oft-cited factor behind the city's change of plans in September 2018 to bury/elevate East River Park by eight feet as part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, does not exist, according to advocacy group East River Park Action.
On Friday, in a reply to the group's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, NYC's Department of Design and Construction (DDC) stated that the city's value engineering report could not be sent because:
"DDC's search of agency records revealed no responsive documents for [the FOIL] request."
In response, East River Park Action issued the following statement:
This means that the present massive $1.45 billion plan lacks the basic justification for the change that doubled the cost and destruction.According to a “Fact Sheet” from de Blasio’s office on Sept. 28, 2018, "The adoption of the new design follows a value engineering study performed earlier this year and a review of the project by a panel of experts with experience from around the nation."
In addition, the independent analyst from the Dutch firm, Deltares, who Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilmember Carlina Rivera hired, also reportedly requested this value engineering report:
"The 'value engineering report' leads to the conclusion that Alternative 4 can be completed faster and with a greater degree of certainty," he wrote. However, he never saw the document. "This value engineering report is not publicly available," he noted.This nonexistent value engineering study and invisible review by a panel of experts paved the way for the new plan and scrapped a less destructive plan that had been developed over years of community and city joint planning.
The city's current plan, which has been met with outrage by community members, will raze the 57.5-acre East River Park, bulldozing 1,000 mature trees and rebuilding the park atop eight feet of landfill meant to protect the Lower East Side and surrounding neighborhoods from a 100-year-flood event and sea level rise.
In October 2019, the city announced that they would phase in the construction so only portions of the park are closed to the public at any given time. According to various reports, the city has committed to leaving a minimum of 42 percent of East River Park open to the public. It is projected to be complete in 2025.
The start of construction, which had been slated to commence this past fall, was delayed until this spring, according to a recent presentation the city made.
However, given the revelation about the value engineering study, "we demand the city stop the ESCR plan so it can be further reviewed," Fannie Ip of East River Park Action said in a statement. "This is not the 'Greener, More Equitable' NYC, which the de Blasio administration has repeatedly promised."
You can read East River Park's full statement and ongoing concerns at this link.