Opponents of City's plan rally ahead of NYC Planning Commission hearing. Sydney Pereira, Patch Staff

Flood Plan That Rebuilds NYC's East River Park Draws Dozens To Meeting

The New York City Planning Commission held a hearing on the controversial flood protection plan for Manhattan's east side.

EAST VILLAGE, NY — A plan to raze and rebuild the East River Park in the name of flood protection brought dozens to a City Planning Commission hearing Wednesday.

The resiliency plan, known as the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, would bury and rebuild the East River Park several feet higher — protecting the neighborhood from devastation from storms like Superstorm Sandy in 2012, according to city officials.

But plan would shutter the massive park for three-and-a-half years under the city's proposed timeline — drawing scrutiny from park-goers, cyclists and runners.

"I think it's unconscionable what they're doing — closing the East River Park from Montgomery to Stuyvesant Town," said Wendy Rubin, who has lived on East Third Street since 1985.

Rubin runs at the park's track four times a week and regularly bikes there.

"It's a quality of life issue," she said.

"I saw that water come in [during Sandy in 2012] — I was affected by it," said Yvette Mercedes, a Baruch Houses resident who rallied against the plan before the hearing with more than a dozen people.

But, she said, "This is not the way of doing it. They're going to stir up stuff, and then they're not going to know how to deal with it."

Some said protection from storms like Sandy is a priority and support the plan.

"I hear about the park. I hear about the bicycles," said Nancy Ortiz, a resident leader at New York City Housing Authority's Vladeck Houses. "Life over trees. I believe in protecting life and I believe in protecting families."

The East Side Coastal Resiliency project's current design was proposed after a previous plan with a series of flood walls and berms was scrapped last year. Community Board 3 and 6 has approved the updated proposal — with pages worth of conditions the city has yet to address entirely.

The Department of Design and Construction emphasized the previous plan would not have protected the park itself from flooding in the future.

"There are provisions for designing and building a so-called 'flood-able park,' but the concern that we heard from the Parks Department in particular is that this is a park that's relied upon for a lot of active recreation, and it's much more difficult to bring an active recreation park back online [after a storm] quickly," DDC's Jamie Torres-Springer told the commission.

This "is an investment in the longterm future of East River Park, which really, in many ways, would become more frequently unusable had we not made this intervention," he said.

Torres-Springer admitted communication was poor when the former design was overhauled and added the city had conducted dozens of meetings since the new plan was announced — to jeers, boos and yelling from the crowd.

City Planning has not yet scheduled a vote as the resiliency project winds through public review, though per the timeline, it is expected in late September.

If approved, the project would then go to City Council, where Councilmember Carlina Rivera holds a pivotal vote.

Rivera remains concerned about the lack of commitment to phased construction to allow for use of the park during construction, among other issues, though has not outright opposed the plan.

"ESCR will be a test for the rest of our city's unguarded coastline, and we owe it to ourselves and all New Yorkers to get this done right, to get this done as soon as possible, and to get this done with the community in mind," a representative said on behalf of Rivera.

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