Exclusive: Manhattan flood barrier project scaled back, faces delays

As the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy approaches, there are delays at one of the city's biggest flood protection projects. It's a new park that doubles as a barrier along the East River in Manhattan.

The setbacks may not only jeopardize New Yorkers who live in that flood plain, but could affect the federal government's promise to pay for much of the complicated project. NY1 Political Reporter Josh Robin has the exclusive story.

A new East River Park offer two visions: Relaxation in good times, and protection in bad.

That was clear when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced it in 2014:

"We are working to ensure that we fight against the floodwaters before they happen, with real protections for people of the East Side of Manhattan," de Blasio said at a news conference with other public officials.

More than two years later, disputes within de Blasio's administration are said to be disrupting an already tight timeline.

Documents from late-2014 show development and construction should have started in June.

Now, there's no construction, and plans are scaled back.

There won't be any new bridges over the FDR Drive, although the city wants to improve some existing ones.

Delays appear to continue. A city document from mid-July, seen in the video above, had a draft environmental impact statement release pegged for this summer.

But another document released Thursday said winter. It's a tweak, perhaps, on a complex project, but the city doesn't have unlimited time.

The city has $335 million in federal funds to spend on the project, but there is a deadline to use it — a little more than five years from now, or else Washington gets back any money that the city doesn't use.

Design and construction are only two parts of the park; permission is also needed for the plan from the New York City Council, and, quite possibly, state legislators and the governor.

President Trump adds to worries. He has proposed budget cuts, and his environmental orders are seen as worsening climate change.

"I do think that City Hall needs to be very coordinated, have one agency talk to another — at least locally, and certainly on the state level," Manhattan President Gale Brewer said. "That sometimes is a challenge."

"We're working through a lot of complicated issues, but we are committed to seeing this through," said Dan Zarrilli, the city's chief resilience officer.

Zarrilli oversees what he calls a public safety project.

He concedes stress on the schedule but says the city is finding ways to make it up. He insists other agencies share the urgency, which he says elected officials will approve.

"This is something that's going to help forestall the impacts of climate change, the future storms that we may see here in New York City," Zarrilli said. "And I think that's going to provide a lot of bases for moving through these processes as quickly as possible."

Charter Spectrum customers get full access
to all our video, including our live stream.
 

Tune to Spectrum New NY1 on TV, online, online, or on Local On Demand Channel 1020 for:

Road to City Hall, Mon.-Fri. at 7pm and 10pm
In Focus with Cheryl Wills, Sun. at 10:30am & 3:30pm
• On Stage, Sat.-Sun. 9:30am & 7:30pm + Tues. 12:30am
Sports on 1, nightly at 11:35pm and 4am