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East River Park won’t be completely closed during flood protection construction

The plan will now be divided into two phases, the Mayor’s office announced

Department of Design and Construction (DDC)

A week after the City Planning Commission approved a $1.45 billion plan to protect the East side coastline from flooding, the city announced that it has amended one crucial component of that plan: It will no longer fully close East River Park for three years during the plan’s construction—something that advocates and neighbors had been long asking for.

The project is currently moving through the city’s uniform land use review procedure, with City Council approval the next phase in that process. The de Blasio administration was due to present the proposal to the council this week, but on Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio took an unexpected tour of the park, Patch reported. And today, his administration announced the change in plans.

“The mayor charged the team at [Department of Design and Construction (DDC)] to find a way to ensure the safety of thousands of New Yorkers by providing flood protection on time and also maintain recreation in East River Park while this critical work goes on,” Lorraine Grillo, commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction, said in a statement. “This is a great outcome driven by the community and we are thrilled to be able meet this challenge.”

All of East River Park was expected to be closed for three years to facilitate construction, but the new plan put forth by the city will divide work into two phases so that almost half the park can remain open. The city says construction will still begin next March, with the park remaining fully accessible until next fall. Flood protections are expected to be in place by 2023’s hurricane season, and the whole project is expected to be complete in 2025.

Under this new plan, the waterfront pathways areas will have a different construction schedule and the city will provide open space resources to neighbors in the area, including a new park next to Pier 42 that will be completed in the spring of 2022.

The plan, created in response to Superstorm Sandy and intended to strengthen coastal resiliency between Montgomery and 25th streets, has gone through many bumps and unexpected turns. Last year, in October, following years of community review, the city unveiled a completely redesigned project, which is the version that is currently under review. The city says the new version of the plan reduced the construction schedule from five to three and a half years.

Three weeks ago, to address neighbors’ concerns, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilmember Carlina Rivera announced that they hired a Dutch environmental consulting group to conduct an independent review of the project. As of last week, the group’s report hadn’t been made public.