East River flood protection plan gets the green light from NYC Council
Rendering courtesy of the Department of Design and Construction
The $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR), designed to protect a section of Manhattan’s east side from flooding, was approved on Thursday in a full City Council vote. The vote is the final City Council approval of the project, which passed the city’s land use committee earlier this week and is the culmination of a long and at-times controversial process. As 6sqft previously reported, the project was born in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and was designed to flood-proof over two miles of Manhattan’s east side between East 25th Street and Montgomery Street and improve waterfront access to waterfront space. According to the city, the ESCR project would protect over 110,000 New Yorkers.
Renderings courtesy of the Department of Design and Construction
Last January, new plans for the project revealed by the city raised community ire for not incorporating feedback and concerns that had previously been raised. Points of contention included the idea of using eight feet of landfill as a protection strategy and the fact that the park would be closed for several years during the project’s construction phase.
“Yes, the development of the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project could have been handled better by the administration,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted Thursday, “but the end result will protect New Yorkers from catastrophic coastal flooding, which was the goal from the start.”
The city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) offered a new round of designs in July showing the elevation of East River Park by integrating the flood wall at the water’s edge with a bulkhead and esplanade without obstructing views, though it would still bury the park under eight to 10 feet of landfill and build a new park on top.
In response to community concerns about the closure of East River Park during the construction period, the city’s updated design, which was approved by Manhattan Community Board 3 in June, incorporates community suggestions and alternative recreation options. These include a new amphitheater and an outdoor fitness area, possible solar lighting along the esplanade, a flyover bridge to connect East 13th and East 15th Streets, two new barbecue areas, a new outdoor fitness center and basketball courts and more trees.
According to the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), the resiliency part of the project is set to be completed by 2023, with full park improvements by 2025. Construction could break ground as early as spring 2020.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer also requested an independent environmental expert to review the project; last month the resulting report, from Dutch consulting firm Deltares, emphasized the importance of transparency in the decision-making process by city agencies to help rebuild trust and gain support of the community, including the provision of more detailed mitigation plans for the project’s construction works. Community involvement at all stages of the project was highlighted across the board.
The city is under a September 2022 deadline to spend $335 million received from HUD for the project or lose the funding. Today’s vote approves land use changes so that construction can begin. A final design will go before the Public Design Commission in December; approval there is expected.
“For those of us who witnessed the devastation from Superstorm Sandy first-hand, the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project could not come sooner,” Council Member Keith Powers said in a statement. “By providing these flood protections, my neighbors and constituents in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village and the surrounding community will no longer have to dread forecasts of hurricanes and severe weather.”
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