Thursday, April 8, 2021

City tries again with release of a Value Engineering Study for East River Park

Five days after East River Park Action (ERPA) filed a lawsuit against Mayor de Blasio and the Office of Management and Budget for the entire Value Engineering Study without redactions ... the city released a (mostly) unredacted version yesterday.

You can find a copy of the 300-plus-page report here. We haven't had a chance to comb through it just yet to learn what it was the city didn't want people to see. Concerned residents are curious why the city denied the existence of the report before releasing a mostly redacted version. We'll see how they did on the third try. (Blacked-out sections now are said to be for security purposes.)

Some background. About the lawsuit (BoweryBoogie was first to report on it):

A lawsuit filed April 2 asks for full disclosure of the much-discussed but largely unseen Value Engineering Study. Joining the lawsuit brought by East River Park Action attorney Jack Lester are Manhattan Borough President candidate Lindsey Boylan; and City Council candidates Christopher Marte, Erin Hussein, and Allie Ryan. The political club Grand Street Democrats also joined along with community activists. 

They seek transparency, accountability and a re-examination of the massive flood control project to find alternatives that will preserve parkland. 

On Monday, Justin Brannan, the chair of the City Council Committee on Resiliency and Waterfronts, also called for the release of the report without redactions. On Tuesday, local City Councilmember Carlina Rivera tweeted that the report was being released "thanks to advocacy from my office & the Community Advisory Group." As previously reported, ERPA's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request and an appeal finally unearthed the three-year-old Value Engineering Study. (This after the city denied there was such a report.) 

However, following the appeal, heavily redacted version of the study — the oft-cited factor behind the city's change of plans in September 2018 to bury/elevate East River Park by eight feet — was released in February.

On March 2, the group's attorney, Jack Lester, appealed to the Department of Design and Construction, the Office of Management and Budget and NYC Parks to see the entire study, not the mostly blacked-out version.

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. Work is expected to begin later in the spring, though the first round of estimates doesn't look promising. 

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 reportsthe city has committed to leaving a minimum of 42 percent of East River Park open to the public. It is projected to be completed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, on April 18, ERPA is hosting a march that starts in Tompkins Square Park at noon...


Choresh Wald said...

Tear down the FDR drive, heal the East Village.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why they can't build a nice wall on the park side of the highway, covered in Ivy or something. I would miss the view from the FDR, a classic NY view but seems to make way more sense than destroying decades of growth and nature. Nobody wants your fake ass, West Side plastic park.

Anonymous said...

There was an earlier plan to build a wall under the FDR instead, don’t know why it was changed.

Garrett said...

Give it up privileged, attention seekers. Parks get renovated. Deal with it. And nobody wants to get flooded again — especially the 18,000 families, mostly POC, who live in NYCHA. We also could use a new park as all three parks in the LES are in extreme disrepair and due for major renovations. This one the feds will pick up the tab for.

Anonymous said...

"New York was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It was after this storm that New York began applying disaster mitigation processes to redevelop the affected areas. Through a design competition launched by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Staten Island Living Breakwaters Project won funding to develop their project on the South Shore of Staten Island, creating a ‘living’ breakwater system, which helps protect coasts while also providing habitats through constructed reefs for finfish, shellfish and lobsters.

...With future projections of increased sea-level rise, monsoons and cyclone frequency, people are in need of long-term and cost-effective solutions. While not yet implemented, researchers argue for the exploration of oysters as a solution."

Anonymous said...

9.19 AM (Garrett) is a classic deflection of the real issue where a community based plan that truly addressed climate change (I mean, all you have to do is check the background of this story at the EV Grieve blog and other venues) was thrown to the wind by this corrupt/ NYC Government/construction union/REBNY CF of a plan that is already over budget.

"Deal with it."

This is classic 'Bro' speak.

Anonymous said...

18,000 POC already are getting flood protections installed at the nycha properties. The feds are only picking up a fraction of the cost to destroy the park. the rest of us will be paying the bills that will be lining the contractor's pockets. & new park will only lead to more pressure to turn over nycha properties to private sector and market rate.

Anonymous said...

Is there any way to uplift and transport the flowering trees to other parks or donate them?

Anonymous said...

Con Edison Close To Completing $1 Billion In Post-Sandy Storm Protections
"The company has installed submersible equipment that can withstand flooding, redesigned underground electrical networks, installed more than 1000 "smart" switches on its overhead system, and taken numerous other steps to avoid outages in major storms."

Anonymous said...

"A large, healthy tree removes approximately 70 times more air
pollution each year than a small newly planted

"Trees also store carbon dioxide in their fibers helping to clean the air and reduce the negative effects that this CO2 could have had on our environment. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, in one year a mature tree will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen in exchange."

Anonymous said...

> Give it up privileged, attention seekers. Parks get renovated. Deal with it. And nobody wants to get flooded again — especially the 18,000 families, mostly POC, who live in NYCHA. We also could use a new park as all three parks in the LES are in extreme disrepair and due for major renovations. This one the feds will pick up the tab for.

Yes and we have alternate plans to prevent flooding. It would just require the FDR to be altered. This approach also meshes with the resurgence of reducing car traffic in the city. Furthermore, doing so would still allow for park improvement. It would allow for park expansion because we have a marked area for it rather than a hodge podge of FDR flowing through East River Park willy nilly that we have today.

OlympiasEpiriot said...

Alright, I've wasted time reading that...the upshot is (from an engineer's perspective) that a large emphasis is placed on keeping the FDR open and flowing during and after construction.

While I agree on several items in there (such as keeping the manholes out of the FDR lanes...putting them there is idiotic...and allowing for construction support floating docks on barges moored adjacent to the bulkhead), I don't see value for the residents of NYC in raising the park versus having a cast-in-place floodwall at the east side or west side of the FDR.

I think there is something else at play here, some kind of perception issue. When we have floods in NYC, they come in and go out, in a large part, on the tides. During a flood, there would be no drivers on the FDR. The waters don't remain for long. This isn't like what happens in inland flooding.

Levees come with their own maintenance issues.

That pre-fab panel idea for the flood wall that will still be needed in areas even if they do raise the park is -- by their own account -- experimental.

I frequently deal with groundwater cutoff structures in my work. Obviously, that's below grade. But, there are similar issue to consider. I would need to see lots of testing done to convince me that prefab panels that are going to be hooked together and grouted are going to be good for the long haul. These are not the deployable panel type (that are installed just before an event and removed after, maintenance can be performed, they stay under cover and out of UV for most of their life, fabricated panels can be replaced if some or one shows damage, etc.)

I do note that there is no discussion of the existing subsurface soil conditions and stratification. Off the top of my head based on general knowledge of the area -- and without having seen the geotechnical report because it isn't shown in there -- I have concerns about their ability to properly compact fill within the proposed schedule. I would assume there would be long-term settlement that would need to be addressed. This may have been addressed in one of the other reports used to do this study. But, I don't see evidence of it.

I could go on.

I have not been involved in this job in any way. So, there is probably a lot I don't know about it.

Anonymous said...

The current plan calls for eliminating the existing 2,400 seat amphitheater that's been used for Summerfest, Wigstock and the Halloween Dog Parade. It will be replaced with a terraced lawn with about 400 stone benches.

I'd really like to know which community leaders reviewed this design and approved it, because it eliminates events that had always proven very popular and well-attended. I've heard a lot of crowing about NYCHA residents supporting the plan but I've yet to see one put their name out there indicating they support the elimination of the amphitheater and its programming.

Anonymous said...

I am with OlympiasEpirot! very clear engineering analysis! We need to elect Erica Hussain in the upcoming , as councilwoman Carolina Rivera sold us out!

Anonymous said...

Ridiculous and outrageous. This isn't some sensitive security document with lives or nat'l interest at stake! Its a project in our own community, overseen by OUR elected officials. All we can imagine is they are hiding somethings which will make their political positions more difficult, and which we all need to know about before they demolish a vital community resource. If there ever was a reason for a FOIA request, this is it.

OlympiasEpiriot said...

What it looks like is still redacted is the names of the private engineers (the city agency people are all visible, as are the names of the firms the private engineers work for) and anything related to ConEdison. ConEd is notoriously touchy about their equipment and that extends to anything enclosing their equipment, like ducts and utility tunnels.

OlympiasEpiriot said...

I don't this these alternatives were brought before many "community leaders". That's part of the problem.


I went running by the river last week and was thinking about the piss poor timing of this project. With light at the end of the COVID tunnel, and after a winter of being shut in, I was so grateful for this outdoor space. To take it away right now would really suck.

Anonymous said...

I will be marching!!!

Anonymous said...

Olympias raises some good points. There will likely be settlement issues with any in-fill. Are the risks associated with that worth taking on?

MTAtoxic said...

There is no need to destroy this park when there is a simple way to stop flooding with a wall along the FDR. Do you think destroying a major park would ever have been even considered for Riverside or Central Park? Of course not! But in a poorer area, inhabited by a majority POC, real estate developers and their flunkies will do their worst if we allow them.

Anonymous said...

I am not a fan of the wall idea. Take the trees down carefully and replant them. There are plenty of gardeners who can do this safely for the tree.
There are so many bigger issues in this city right now, I don't think shutting the FDR as we are about to re-open is a good idea either.
As far as the closing 41% of the park or whatever, people have to get over it. Sandy was a disaster to more than just the coned plant down here.

Amy Berkov said...

The city proposed to transplant about 50 small saplings.

Anonymous said...

Analysis above and elsewhere confirms what has long been suspected. That the primary issue is preventing any temporary closure of the FDR drive. Once the trees are uprooted that will mean more automotive particulates to add to childhood asthma issues and overall air quality deterioration, especially for the NYCHA residents. Construction dust will also be an issue.

Intermittent closing of the FDR to build a wall on either side will not impact deliveries, FDR is non-commercial, or emergency services, for whom the highway is too much of a traffic risk. Whether a wall would work to stop flooding is an open question, as is whether the planned expensive pile of dirt would successfully push tidal floodwaters towards Brooklyn or up the river.

Any reader of this blog will remember the L train saga of relatively recent memory. Seems we had to close the L completely for a long period of time ... until we didn't. A full audit of the contracts already signed should tell more of the story. Rivera should stop being steamrolled by the DeBlasio administration if she wants to be in office longer than him.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who suggests the “simple wall” almost certainly doesn’t live in the projects. The perception of some people there is that a wall will further gentrify the park and make it a persons of privilege exclusive area. That is why this raise the whole park plan was done. Personally I rather see the FDR lowered and covered but that would upset the car users for the two years it would keep the road closed.

Anonymous said...

I think part of the problem with this project is the way it was presented and the fact that nobody translated what the drawings will mean to the community. The current design includes a service drive that's little more than an alleyway wedged between the new infill berm and the highway. This will be an insanely dangerous path in the evenings when the lights inevitably stop working (as they currently do along the promenade). The current design calls for the demolition of 1930's comfort stations and support structures, while those are being preserved in Seward and Corlears Parks. And, as was noted above, it effectively calls for the elimination of the amphitheater and its programming.

My read is that the driver of this approach is the enormous ConEd power line that runs from the 13th Street Station north and south along the FDR. It's a homeland security issue, as was revealed during Sandy as that line feeds both Lower Manhattan and Midtown. This is why no drawings show that line and probably a contributing factor to the redactions. It's also probably why this portion of Manhattan's edge has been prioritized rather than areas adjacent to higher-value real estate. For more information on that line check out this article in Bloomberg:

Relocating the berm to the east avoids potential disruption of this line (documented in the VE study) and pushes potential flood waters to the east. It also covers up DDC's mistake of having gone through months of planning before recognizing the need to account for this vital infrastructure. But their mistake is no reason the community should have to live with their shoddy quick fix.

Anonymous said...

@3:23 PM That's not what I'm hearing from my NYCHA friends at all.

The idea that a wall would prevent entry (or did you just feel like dropping "privilege" into the conversation) to anyone makes no sense anywhere but this comments section. The residents I know seem to understand that the project will go way over budget and schedule and wouldn't care about a wall on their side blocking the FDR as it might help with the air quality (especially if covered in certain plants).

If you really think the locals, read: NYCHA residents, are happy about the park being closed for even the unrealistic not-gonna-happen schedule you should go talk to some of them when we're out there hanging on the weekends and in the evening.

The problem is that the FDR had been deemed untouchable.

Anonymous said...

its a new dance craze - the DiBlasio Ecocide Shuffle

you cut down a tree
and do it again
you dig a big hole
and count some money
and do it again
until everything is dead
its the DiBlasio Ecocide Shuffle

MTAtoxic said...

So it seems to come down to 2 choices:

1. inconveniencing the bridge and tunnel crowd with temporary FDR shutdowns (which btw will great enhance the neighborhood air quality)

2. destroy every living thing in Manhattan's second largest park while the neighborhood likely endues 8-10 years of construction and no green space.

I'll take the latter.
I hope the Governor shuts this *hitshow down as he did with the L-train tunnel fiasco- another unnecessary boondoggle that everyone was claiming had to be done.

Pat said...

Erin Hussein...but close enough to know who you're talking about. Yes, she's terrific.

Anonymous said...

As someone who uses this park every day, I will never vote for any politician again who supports this god-awful plan. Covid was bad enough without knowing the city could give a sh*t about the entire LES community who depends on this green space for fresh air and recreation. I have never felt so voiceless.

Anonymous said...

anon 3:23 oh yes the "priveleged" buzzword. Anyone can use the park, and is welcome to the public park, wall or no wall, and they know that. This is like when people say the vaccine is privledged yet anyone has access to sign up the same way. If you worry about privledged, worry about the yuppie Domino style park the landfill plan would make.

Anonymous said...

@MTAtoxic - the alternative does not have to shut down the FDR, why would you assume that? There would be no reason for that. It's also a vital part of the city's transportation network so that would obviously be impractical regardless but there's no reason for it.