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East Side flood protection plan approved by City Planning Commission

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The city’s East Side Coastal Resiliency project continues to inch forward

A bridge that leads to a waterfront park. NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC).

The city’s $1.45 billion plan to add flood protections to the East River coastline continues to move forward in the city’s land use review process. On Monday, the City Planning Commission voted to approve the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project.

“The ESCR project responds to one of the most pressing issues that this City is facing: Climate change,” Marisa Lago, chair of the City Planning Commission, said before voting to approve the project on Monday. “Seven years after Sandy, parts of the city are still recovering from its devastation, including areas that would be protected by this project. This application is a pivotal step towards protecting nearly 200,000 New Yorkers in Lower Manhattan and includes tens of thousands of residents living in public housing.”

Created in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the plan is aimed at strengthening the coastline between Montgomery and 25th streets while improving waterfront open spaces. It would preserve several bridges and reconstruct ones at Delancey and East 10th streets, as well as add several floodwalls and gates. Under the current plan, East River Park would have to close for three and a half years to facilitate construction, but several areas of the park would be reconstructed, including its track house and amphitheater.

But the decision to close the park has led some neighborhood residents to push back against the project. Pat Arnow from East River Park Action, which has long opposed the ESCR proposal, expressed disappointment about the city’s decision.

“The city claims they can demolish and rebuild our 57-acre park eight-ten feet higher in just three and a half years—that is unrealistic,” Arnow said. “Our 1.2-mile promenade was closed in 2001 because of dangerous pilings: Construction started in 2005, it was supposed to take a couple of years. It was completed in 2011. You can see why we’re skeptical about the city’s timeline.”

Neighbors and city officials have also voiced their concerns about the city scrapping its initial plan, following years of community engagement, and putting forth an entirely new one in October 2018. The city says one of the main reasons for changing the plan was to reduce the construction schedule, from five to three and a half years.

Just two weeks ago, to address neighbors’ concerns, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilmember Carlina Rivera announced that they hired Hans Gehrels of the Dutch environmental consulting group Deltares to conduct an independent review of the project. The group’s report is expected to be completed sometime this week, Brewer’s office told Patch.

Back in June, Community Board 3 approved the proposed plan with a list of specific conditions including providing transportation assistance to other open area, parks, and sport fields during construction. Manhattan Borough President also supported the plan with conditions including installing temporary flood protection measures during construction “to mitigate storm impacts.”

The project is now in the final stages of the city’s land use review process and will head to the City Council next. After that, it would need the Mayor’s approval. At a meeting in July, first deputy commissioner Jamie Torres Springer said that construction for the project is expected to begin in March of next year.