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Environmentalists Raise Storm Mitigation Concerns Over Hudson River Park Development Plan

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TWC News: Environmentalists Raise Storm Mitigation Concerns Over Hudson River Park Development Plan
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The issue of new development along the piers of Hudson River Park has been mired in a long battle between the park trust and opponents of new development that is not parkland, and environmentalists are raising new concerns about storm mitigation. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

Hudson River Park along Manhattan's West Side is expanding. Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that will speed up development along the park's commercial piers. That clears the way for retail and office space hundreds of feet into the river.

"The development on the commercial piers is for the purpose of actually paying for the Hudson River Park," said Madelyn Wills of the Hudson River Park Trust. "We receive no operating funds from the city or the state. We are completely self-sustaining."

Some environmentalists, though, are concerned about building so close to the water. During Hurricane Sandy last year, rising floodwaters took lives and caused billions of dollars in damage, including in Manhattan.

"The plan since 1998, which is pre-Katrina and pre-Sandy, was to build 30 to 40 development sites, which they're calling piers, but rebuilt piers that can hold up all kinds of development," said Marcy Benstock of the Clean Air Campaign.

During Hurricane Sandy, there was extensive flooding along the Hudson River, particularly in the southern part of Manhattan, which is a lower elevation than the rest of the island. On the New Jersey side, there was also extensive flooding, and Governor Chris Christie recently vetoed a bill that would have allowed more development along the New Jersey waterfront.

"The reason he gave was, it could jeopardize federal flood insurance for lots of New Jersey towns if he took that step, which goes in exactly in the wrong direction for preventing flooding," Benstock said.

Plans currently under consideration to mitigate flooding include building out natural wetlands in flood plains and keeping new development a safe distance from the water's edge.

"We are very cautious about what's built in the river, but in fact, the newer piers that have been built held up very well in Hurricane Sandy because we build them to the specs that our regulators want us to build them at," Wills said.

The legislation signed by the governor also allows air rights for building along the water to be transferred to yet-to-be-identified receiving sites on the other side of the West Side Highway.

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