Showing posts with label East River Park. Show all posts
Showing posts with label East River Park. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Tree sitters take to East River Park

Photos by Daniel Efram 

In the pre-dawn hours on Monday, a group of activists gathered in a blustery East River Park to continue to bring awareness to the destruction taking place as part of the $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency project

Group members draped "Protect Me" banners on several of the oldest trees along the greenway just north of the active worksite that starts at Stanton Street... eventually, five people positioned themselves in the trees for several hours ...
Yesterday, the @1000people1000trees account reported that workers cut down a tree in the greenway but stopped their attempts on another tree when more group members arrived.

The group issued a statement on Monday that read in part:
Concerned community members have come together in protection of East River Park from this ecocide needlessly being carried out by the City with an extraordinary lack of safety measures in light of unprecedented conditions created by the COVID-19 surge and in the absence of any State, City or Federal official or Agency willing to claim responsible environmental oversight. In response to these calamitous conditions, we are opposed to any further areas of the park being fenced off and subsequently demolished. 
Community members opposed to the current version of the city's floodproofing plan for East River Park gather daily this week at 7 a.m. at the Houston Street entrance...

Monday, January 3, 2022

East River Park greenway now closing up to 10th Street

Starting today, the greenway that runs parallel to the FDR and along East River Park will shut down up to 10th Street Street, according to the weekly construction bulletin. 

Workers closed the greenway between Montgomery and Stanton streets starting on Dec. 6. The bulletin notes that workers will "finish protective fence installation" along this corridor. (Click on the image below for more detail) ...
Park entry will remain at Houston, Sixth Street and 10th Street. The city has said they will maintain public access to a minimum of 42 percent of the park throughout construction, expected to be complete by the end of 2026.

To date, work on the $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency project has focused on cutting down trees and demolishing all the amenities (for a while in defiance of a Temporary Restraining Order), including the amphitheater, below Stanton Street.

On Dec. 31, photo-journalist Nathan Kensinger filed a "Goodbye To East River Park" essay for Gothamist.

An excerpt from the article highlights the slapdash nature of the work to date:
The de Blasio administration has left behind a decidedly mixed climate change legacy, and one of its largest shortcomings has been falling behind on billions of dollars of coastal infrastructure projects initiated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. This last-minute destruction of East River Park has proved to be disruptive and lacks the transparency and safety measures usually seen at city demolition and construction sites.

Visitors to the park, including bicyclists, joggers, skateboarders and wheelchair-bound retirees, were left befuddled by the sudden closure of its southern entrances and paths.

No official construction signs, project descriptions or permits were mounted at the demolition sites. Clouds of dust rose up from the removal of the amphitheater's aged concrete, behind a flimsy barrier of dilapidated fences and caution tape.

As one of the final acts of the de Blasio administration, the demolition of East River Park marks the last chapter in the mayor's climate change legacy, ending his term on a controversial note, and leaving his successor with a messy process that will take years to complete.
The current plans call for gutting East River Park — burying the existing 57.5-acre land under fill and elevating it by 8-to-10 feet above sea level while also cutting down 1,000 mature trees. The new park is expected to protect the Lower East Side from storm surges until at least 2050. 

However, as the Gothamist piece notes, "if sea levels rapidly rise, the park may need to be demolished and raised again."

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Concerned community members are gathering this morning at 8 at the Houston Street entrance. They are coming together "in protection of East River Park from this ecocide needlessly being carried out by the City with an extraordinary lack of safety measures in light of unprecedented conditions created by the COVID-19 surge and in the absence of any State, City or Federal Official or Agency willing to claim responsible environmental oversight."

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Workers have demolished the East River Park amphitheater

Workers have finished demolishing the East River Park amphitheater. 

EVG regular Daniel Efram shared these photos yesterday... 
The city is to replace the existing structure, which dates to 1941, with a smaller one at the exact location. In June, the city came up with $4.83 million to include a roof over the new amphitheater. (Our last post has more details.)

Meanwhile, workers continue to cut down the trees in East River Park below Stanton Street as part of the $1.45-billion East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. Up to 1,000 mature trees are expected to come down in total.
The city has said that some 2,000 new trees will be planted in the reconstructed park, per a previously published statement.

Activists opposed to this version of the city's floodproofing plan continue to gather daily at 1 p.m. just south of the Houston Street entrance...

Monday, December 27, 2021

Monday's opening shot

Thanks for EVG reader Tina Li for this shot of the spectacular sunrise this morning... as seen from East River Park (the sectiion that's still open to the public) ...

Friday, December 24, 2021

The end of the East River amphitheater

The demolition of East River Park below Stanton Street continues as part of the $1.45-billion East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR).

Social media posts show that workers have been focusing on the amphitheater in recent days.

"I saw some photos online of the amphitheater tragically getting gutted earlier this week, and I wanted to say goodbye before it was completely gone," EVG reader Shane Fleming told me in an email.

So yesterday around sunset, Shane went in for a closer look and shared the following photos. As you can see, the trees surrounding the amphitheater have been cut down, and the seats have also been removed. Only the bandshell remains for now.

"I spent many wonderful afternoons growing up at this amphitheater, and it's crushing to see it go like this," he said.
Here's some history of the amphitheater via the Parks Department website:
In 1941, an amphitheater was built in the park, along with an adjacent limestone recreational building, as part of an urban renewal project for the Lower East Side. During the 1950s, the amphitheater was the site of frequent free Evening-in-the-Park concerts. Joseph Papp (1921-1991), founder of Shakespeare in the Park and the Public Theater, staged Julius Caesar there in 1956. Local schools held their graduation ceremonies there, and the Group of Ancient Drama staged free-of-charge performances of classic Greek plays...
The city is to replace the existing structure with a smaller one at the exact location. (The currently gutted space could seat an estimated 2,500; based on the renderings, the new one looks to hold 400.) In June, the city came up with $4.83 million to include a roof over the new amphitheater

The city has previously estimated that all work will be completed in East River Park by the end of 2026.

Our previous post has more about what's been happening with ESCR to date. 

Friday, December 17, 2021

A rally in support of the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project; activists lose appeal

1) This morning, a group of self-described LES stakeholders are holding a rally supporting the $1.45-billion East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR), currently underway along East River Park. 

According to a media advisory, representatives from the Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), NYCHA TA Leadership, Coalition for a District Alternative (CODA), an independent political organization, and members of the Frontline Communities Coalition will be in attendance. 

Their media statement includes:
ESCR is one of many critical life-saving infrastructure projects needed to protect NYC residents from the devastating impacts of climate change. Without the completion of ESCR to provide flood protection, a resilient park, and improved drainage systems, Lower East Side including NYCHA's infrastructure will remain susceptible to deterioration, putting the future of residents at great risk of loss of life, evacuation, and potential loss of homes. 
And:
Frontline Communities Coalition refutes the misinformation campaign specifically targeted to play into the fears of people of color and the residents of public housing. ESCR is about saving lives and in doing so it will also save the homes and East River Park itself for future generations. 

This morning, the rally takes place at 11 on Sixth Street at FDR Drive between the Jacob Riis and Lillian Wald Houses.

2) Yesterday, the state Court of Appeals denied activists' bid to hear their case. 

In a terse, 20-word ruling, the court rejected allegations that the city side-stepped state law by not seeking a vote approving the plan in the state legislature. Judges in earlier phases of the suit had already ruled in the city’s favor twice. 

The court also rejected the activists' motion to hold the city in contempt of court, after the city continued to cut down trees in the park following a judge's order in the case, issued last week that appeared to require the city to pause construction.
A lawyer for the activists, Arthur Schwartz, told the Post that the whole process "has been shameful."

"It has never been necessary to destroy the park in order to get flood protection for the people of the Lower East Side," Schwartz said. "Tens of thousands will lose a local park for the next 5 to 7 years, maybe more."

In an Instagram post, East River Park Action, which had been fighting the city over this version of the plan to stormproof the park, said:
This is truly a sad day, not only for us but for all parkland. This decision sets a terrible precedent for all parkland... All they have to do now is tack on some park-related excuse to whatever they're doing and it will not need to go through alienation or state oversight. They could put a building in a park and say it's for environmental research for the park and it will be ok. Thank you for your support. We are in mourning.
East River Park Action and other activists have said some alternatives could preserve much of the park and protect the Lower East Side and surrounding neighborhoods from a 100-year-flood event and sea-level rise — one that doesn't cause 1,000 mature trees to be chopped down.

In late 2018, the city surprised community stakeholders by announcing a complete overhaul of a plan discussed over four years of local meetings. As Gothamist reported: "City officials cited fears about maintaining a floodable green space, as well the disruption to motorists on the FDR Drive and potential dangers to Con Ed's power lines under the previous proposal."

The current plans call for gutting East River Park — burying the existing 57.5-acre park under fill and elevating it by 8-to-10 feet above sea level.

The city shut down East River Park below Stanton Street on Dec. 6 and has been working — sometimes around the clock — to cut down trees and remove park amenities. Workers are currently demolishing the amphitheater.

East River Park remains open above Houston Street. The city has previously estimated that work will be complete by the end of 2026.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

[UPDATED] Activists: Even with new court order city continues demolition of East River Park

Yesterday, Court of Appeals Judge Rowan D. Wilson issued a new order that stays the previous Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), halting the construction at East River Park until a hearing on Thursday afternoon. 

Judge Wilson also signed an order bringing on a motion to hold the respondent in contempt.

 

Despite this, activists at the construction site south of Houston Street this morning report that city-contracted workers continue to demolish portions of the park — as they did around the clock this past weekend, even with the TRO in place on the $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency project. 

Photos from the scene show an excavator in action at the amphitheater. 

In recent days, workers have focused on the now-closed section of East River Park from Stanton Street to Montgomery Street. Trees and amenities in this section have mostly been removed, witnesses say.

Photos of East River Park show a barren landscape with piles of tree stumps for those on the FDR to view (thanks to EVG reader John for this photo)...
The city's response to date has been: "The city has reviewed the Court's written order, and we do not believe it prevents us from continuing work on this vital resiliency project. 

Updated 3:30 p.m.

A group of activists has marched to local City Councilmember Carlina Rivera's office. Per a tweet, they are calling for her removal... 
Updated 7 p.m.

Here are more photos from outside Rivera's office via EVG contributor Stacie Joy. 

The activists tried to present Rivera with a copy of the latest order from Judge Wilson...
Although people were inside the office, no one would come to the door... and a copy was shoved under the door...
The group blocked traffic ...
...under the watchful eye of the NYPD. We're not aware of any arrests here.
Top photo by @benjaminshepard via @eastriverparkaction.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

'Pretty evil' — city is working around the clock this weekend to cut down trees in East River Park

Work continues around the clock this weekend as the city cuts down more trees in the southern portion of East River Park — despite the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in place to halt the $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency project. 

The @1000people1000trees account posted a video clip of trees being cut down at 3 a.m.

 

Activists, who have been protesting as the work proceeds south of Stanton Street to Montgomery Street, say that the city is moving quickly to demolish as much as they can before tomorrow when the Court of Appeals is expected to act on the contempt citation East River Park Action attorneys sent to Albany. 

As of this morning, witnesses say that the work has reached the amphitheater. Activists from East River Park Action and @1000people1000trees are calling a meeting at 2 this afternoon at the amphitheater. Demonstrations continued yesterday south of the East Houston Street entrance... (photos below by Stacie Joy)...
During a rally/press conference, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, who represents the Lower East Side, called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to immediately stop the tree-cutting. 

"I'm appalled that the mayor and his team would toss aside a temporary restraining order granted by the Court of Appeals, but this is sadly emblematic of elected officials who view themselves as above the law and above accountability," Niou said at the rally, as quoted by the Post

During the press conference, attendees could view the ongoing tree cutting...
More pointed comments were directed toward the outgoing mayor, dubbed "Bulldozer Bill."
"It's fairly unusual that orders of the court are disobeyed," said Arthur Schwartz, one of the pro-bono attorneys working on behalf of the activists. As The Village Sun quoted: "Bill de Blasio wants to just get this done and in the ground before Eric Adams is mayor. He wants to make sure Eric Adams doesn't have any way to deal with it." 
On Wednesday, Court of Appeals Judge Rowan Wilson issued the TRO. According to East River Park Action, who has been opposed to the city's current plan for the park, the TRO remains in effect at least until the next hearing on Dec. 20. 

The city's interpretation of the TRO is different. 

Per NY1: "The city has reviewed the Court's written order and we do not believe it prevents us from continuing work on this vital resiliency project," said Ian Michaels, the head of public information for the Department of Design and Construction, which is overseeing the project.

As former judge Kathryn Freed, another attorney for East River Park, told the Sun: "The city is just being willfully obtuse. … They're betting that if they cut down half of the trees, we'll just go away. It's pretty evil. And what they've done to this community, it's pretty evil."

City Comptroller Scott Stringer is also questioning the city's actions right now.

East River Park north of Houston Street remains open.

Top photo by @1000people1000trees

Previously on EV Grieve

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Witnesses: City continues to cut down trees this morning in East River Park

Witnesses say that city-contracted workers are back in East River Park this morning cutting down trees — despite the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that Rowan D. Wilson, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, issued on Wednesday

In addition, according to activists who have been speaking out against the city's current plan to floodproof the park, the Department of Design and Construction is showing documents that day the TRO has been lifted. The paper is not valid, activists say...
The TRO is to remain in effect until the next hearing on Dec. 20. A copy of the court order follows...
East River Park Action released this statement this morning: 
Capt. Luis E. Barcia, Commander of the 7th Precinct was on-site where construction workers entered at 6:30 this morning. Park Activist Tommy Loeb said that Barcia acknowledged that he has a copy of the court order that should stay the work. It's from the Appeals Court, the highest court in the state. 

However, according to Loeb, "He has been told by higher ups that he's supposed to let the construction workers in.” Protesters have been unable to stop the work. Harriet Hirshorn and Alice O'Malley were arrested yesterday trying to deliver the Temporary Restraining Order to supervisors of the demolition inside the construction fence. 

Attorney Kathryn Freed said that the document the police were using to allow the demolition to proceed was "an internal memo" from the Department of Design and Construction. "They're taking that as more important as the highest court in the state." 

Activists, who have been protesting as work proceeds, say that the city is trying to demolish as much as they can before Monday, when the Court of Appeals will act on the contempt citation East River Park Action attorneys sent to Albany.
From NY1's coverage from yesterday:
In a statement, the city said that the order from appeals court Judge Rowan D. Wilson on Wednesday did not amount to an order to halt work at the park pending a final ruling. 

"The City has reviewed the Court's written order and we do not believe it prevents us from continuing work on this vital resiliency project," Ian Michaels, the head of public information for the Department of Design and Construction, which is overseeing the project, said.
You can read find more coverage at The Village Sun and CBS 2. 

Activists scheduled a press conference today at 1 p.m. at the Houston Street entrance to the park.

EVG contributor Stacie Joy shared this photo from yesterday... where there was an active construction site.

With the TRO in place, activists say that workers cut trees from Houston Street to the tennis courts just north of Delancey. Workers also ripped up the soccer field south of the Williamsburg Bridge and the seal park across from Grand Street. 

Read our previous posts for more background on the ESCR and the opposition and controversy over the city's current plan.

East River Park Action and other activists say they will continue to fight for alternatives to preserve much of the park and provide interim flood control.

Top photo by @1000people1000trees

Friday, December 10, 2021

Report: City continues cutting down trees in East River Park despite Temporary Restraining Order

On Wednesday, Court of Appeals Judge Rowan Wilson issued a new Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), halting construction underway in East River Park as part of the $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency project.

According to East River Park Action, who has been opposed to the city's current plan for the park, the TRO remains in effect at least until the next hearing on Dec. 20. 

However, despite the TRO, activists at the construction site just south of Houston Street report that city-contracted workers continue to cut down trees today. (There are also reports from people at the scene that police have arrested several of the activists.)


Top photo by @jeremoss