By a unanimous vote, a City Council subcommittee approved a controversial plan to protect Lower Manhattan from future floodwaters.
“What is clear is that this community did not just want a flood protection plan we needed a plan that would help address environmental injustice even as we transform our coast line to defend our homes and East River Park from climate catastrophe,” said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera.
The East Side Coastal Resiliency Project would build two and a half miles of barriers along the East River to prevent the kind of flooding that swamped the community during Hurricane Sandy.
“The ESCR plan is a win in the long term, ensuring our community is resilient for years to come,” said Councilwoman Margaret Chin.
The final plan will elevate portions of East River Park up to eight feet to protect it from storm surges and build a series of berms, levees, walls and green spaces rising up to 16 feet. It reflects revisions to address local concerns about overhauling the park a newly refurbished green space with ball fields, playgrounds and a track.
The city agreed to close the park in stages, keeping about 40 percent of it open at all times.
Nearly a thousand trees, some 80 years old, will be taken down. But the city agreed to replace them and add nearly 1000 more, though it will take time for them to grow. The final plan is about twice the cost of the previous proposal.
Some community activists are not appeased.
“They seem to be puny at best. The phasing is leaving open 40 percent of the park and it’ll be closing off the promenade for years so they can build a great 8 foot wall along the promenade, which means that it’ll just be constant pile driving and noise and construction along the river for the entire length of the park,” said Pat Arnow, of East River Park Action.
Residents say the plan doesn’t offer temporary berms during construction. They say the plan is the city’s way of attacking a community it sees as ripe for redevelopment.
“The fear is that this is much more about paving the way for gentrifying further the Lower East Side and the East Village than it is truly about flood protection,” said Harriet Hirshon, also of East Side Park Action.
The full council is expected to approve the plan on Thursday and construction on the project to begin next year.