New York City: Brewer, Rivera tap Dutch firm to review coastal resiliency plan
As much of the East Side community remains strongly opposed to the city’s coastal-resiliency plan, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Carlina Rivera this week announced the hiring of an independent consultant to review the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project.
Community complaints about the E.S.C.R. — a flood-protection project — include that it would close East River Park for three and a half years of construction, which would take away recreation space for kids and adults. There are also environmental concerns about dumping large amounts of dirt to raise the park by 8 or 9 feet. In addition, there are worries about a loss of biodiversity in the area.
There have been protests against the city’s plan, and many residents have spoken out against it at Community Board 3 meetings in recent months. The current scheme is going through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). In her part of the project’s ULURP review, Brewer requested in her recommendation that an independent environmental expert review and prepare comments about the project.
Brewer and Rivera announced that Deltares, an environmental consulting group based in the Netherlands, has been hired to review the project. The review will be led Dr. Hans Gehrels, the manager of the group’s market team on urban resilience.
“We’ve heard the requests of the community for an independent review before this goes into effect, and we listened,” Brewer said. “Dr. Gehrels will bring his vast experience and expertise to his analysis of this project, and I look forward to seeing the results of his review.”
According to the announcement, the intention was for Gehrels to interview “a variety of project stakeholders” from Sept. 9 to Sept. 13, and review the Preferred Alternative 4 proposal, along with the city’s three other project designs. The review will then culminate in a public report.
“Since earlier this year, our community has requested a third-party expert review that would bring greater scrutiny and clarity to E.S.C.R.,” Rivera said. “I look forward to the Deltares team’s expert and independent insight into the project as we work to ensure the city gets its first major storm-resiliency project done quickly and correctly for the communities impacted.”
Rivera’s office said the councilmember continues to press the de Blasio administration on community concerns about the project, and that the city responded it is still evaluating the possibility of phased construction that would avoid shutting down all of East River Park at once. There is also a report coming from the Department of Transportation on bikeway alternatives during the East River Park project, according to Rivera’s office.
To contribute to the independent review, members of the public can submit comments or concerns to Deltares by e-mail at ESCR@manhattanbp.nyc.gov.
The consultants’ report will be published as soon as possible, according to the announcement, since the City Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the project’s ULURP application on Mon., Sept. 23. After Planning votes, the City Council will vote on the project.
Final Notice and Public Explanation of a Proposed Activity in a 100-Year Floodplain or Wetland (Sponsored)
New York City Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks)
Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR)
East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project
Final Notice and Public Explanation of a Proposed Activity in a 100-Year Floodplain or Wetland
To: All Interested Agencies, Groups, and Individuals:
This is to give notice that the City of New York (the City) has conducted an evaluation as required by Executive Orders (EOs) 11988 and 11990, and as implemented by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban (HUD) Regulations found at 24 CFR 55.20, to determine the potential affect that its activity in the floodplain and wetland would have on the human environment, for the proposed East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project, in New York County, New York City. HUD has allocated Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds, which would be dispersed through the New York City Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as the Responsible Entity (RE) for the proposed project; therefore, OMB is the Lead Agency for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review. The proposed project is also primarily located in City parkland and requires approvals from the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (Parks); therefore, Parks is the Lead Agency pursuant to the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and New York City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR).
This document pertains to proposed project activities in the 100-year floodplain (AE Zone) and mapped wetlands, as identified on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) preliminary (2015) Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) 1974 Tidal Wetland Mapping (Map ID 586_506 and 586_508), respectively. According to the FEMA Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (DFIRM) ID 360497, the proposed project is located within the 100-year floodplain, designated as Zone AE, as well as the 500-year floodplain, designated as Zone X. The Base Flood Elevation (BFE) is 10 feet (NGVD 1929). The proposed project area intersects with approximately 78 acres of the 100-year floodplain.
The NYSDEC 1974 Tidal Wetland Mapping (Map ID 586_506 and 586_508) indicates that certain project elements – relocation of existing embayments, installation of support structures for a new shared used flyover bridge, installation of cofferdams for outfall construction, and temporary placement of mooring spuds for construction barges – would be located within unvegetated Littoral Zone, a NYSDEC tidal wetland. Additionally, the East River is mapped as estuarine subtidal wetlands with an unconsolidated bottom (E1UBL) on United States Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) maps. The proposed project would involve 1.02 acres of temporary disturbance, and 0.69 acres of permanent disturbance to these wetlands.
The City has considered the following alternatives and mitigation measures to be taken to minimize adverse effects on the floodplain and / or wetlands and to restore and preserve the natural and beneficial values they offer:
No Action Alternative: The project purpose and need would not be met with the No Action alternative. The No Action alternative assumes that no new comprehensive coastal protection system is installed in the proposed project area. In the absence of this system, the existing neighborhoods within the protected area would remain at risk to coastal flooding during design storm events.
Proposed Action Alternatives:
The Flood Protection System with a Raised East River Park Alternative (Preferred Alternative) proposes to move the line of flood protection further into East River Park, thereby protecting both the community and the park from design storm events, as well as increased tidal inundation resulting from sea level rise. The Preferred Alternative would raise the majority of East River Park. This plan would reduce the length of wall between the community and the waterfront to provide for enhanced neighborhood connectivity and integration. Between the park amphitheater and East 13th Street, the park would be raised by approximately eight feet to meet the design flood elevation criteria, with the floodwall installed below-grade. The park’s underground water and drainage infrastructure, bulkhead and esplanade, and existing park structures and recreational features, including the amphitheater, track facility and tennis house, would be reconstructed as part of the raised park. Relocation of two existing embayments along the East River Park esplanade is also proposed under this plan to facilitate direct connection to the water and allow for siting of active recreation fields within the park. This alternative would include drainage components to reduce the risk of interior flooding and construction of the foundations for the shared-use flyover bridge to address the narrowed pathway (pinch point) near the Con Edison facility between East 13th Street and East 15th Street, substantially improving the City’s greenway network and north-south connectivity in the project area. The Preferred Alternative would also include reconstruction of 10 outfalls located along the park shoreline that discharge to the East River, as well as wastewater and water supply piping and associated features such as manholes and regulators.
The Flood Protection System on the West Side of East River Park – Baseline Alternative (Alternative 2) would provide flood protection using a combination of floodwalls, levees, and closure structures (i.e., deployable gates) from Montgomery Street to East 25th Street. As the line of protection would generally be located on the western side of East River Park in a portion of the project area, the park would not be protected from the design storm event under this alternative. The neighborhoods to the west of the line of protection would be protected from the design storm event under this alternative. This alternative also includes modifications of the existing sewer system. A shared-used flyover bridge would be built cantilevered over the northbound FDR Drive to address the Con Edison pinch point.
The Flood Protection System on the West Side of East River Park – Enhanced Park & Access Alternative (Alternative 3)provides flood protection using a combination of floodwalls, levees, and closure structures. As with Alternative 2, the line of protection would generally be located on the western side of East River Park in a portion of the project area, and the neighborhoods to the west of this line would be protected from the design storm event under this alternative. However, under this alternative, there would be more extensive use of berms and other earthwork in association with the flood protection along the FDR Drive to provide for more integrated access, soften the visual effect of the floodwall on park users, and introduce new types of park experience. The landscape would generally gradually slope down from high points along the FDR Drive towards the existing at-grade esplanade at the water’s edge. Due to the extent of the construction of the flood protection system, this alternative would include a more extensive reconfiguration and reconstruction of the bulk of East River Park and its programming, including landscapes, recreational fields, playgrounds, and amenities. Even with these East River Park enhancements, the park itself would not be protected from the design storm event under this alternative. As proposed in Alternative 2, this alternative would include drainage components to reduce the risk of interior flooding and the shared-use flyover bridge to address the Con Edison pinch point.
The Flood Protection System East of FDR Drive (Alternative 5) proposes a flood protection alignment similar to the Preferred Alternative, except for the approach between East 13th Street and Avenue C. This alternative would raise the northbound lanes of the FDR Drive in this area by approximately six feet to meet the design flood elevation, then connect to closure structures at the south end of Stuyvesant Cove Park. This alternative would include drainage components to reduce the risk of interior flooding and the construction of the shared-use flyover bridge to address the Con Edison pinch point.
It has been determined that the Preferred Alternative would provide flood protection for vulnerable populations and critical city infrastructure and amenities located within the floodplain, including East River Park and existing neighborhoods adjacent to the park, which are all currently at risk to coastal flooding during design storm events. While the Preferred Alternative would change the elevation of the floodplain in the vicinity of the proposed project, it would not change the occupancy of the floodplain and would not have effects on flood velocities upstream or downstream. Once implemented, the flood protection system is designed to withstand storm surge velocities and wave action for the 100-year-storm event assuming sea level rise to the 2050s. The Preferred Alternative would therefore minimize the potential effects that could be expected to occur within the floodplain. While there would be adverse effects to regulated tidal wetlands resulting from construction of the proposed project, the Preferred Alternative would not significantly adversely affect tidal wetland resources in the area. Furthermore, the project area is already highly developed, and the implementation of the Preferred Alternative would not encourage new development within the floodplain or wetlands in the proposed project area.
Therefore, the City determines that the proposed project complies with EOs 11988 and 11990, and 44 CFR 60.3(a)(4-6). Environmental files that document compliance with steps 3 through 6 of EO 11988 are available for public review with Mr. Calvin Johnson, Assistant Director, CDBG Disaster Recovery, New York City Office of Management and Budget, 255 Greenwich Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10007, (212) 788-6024, and may be examined or copied on weekdays between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM. The documents may also be found at http://www1.nyc.gov/site/cdbgdr/documents/environmental-records.page
Pursuant to 24 CFR Part 55, an Early Notice and Public Review of a Proposed Activity in a 100-Year Floodplain and Wetland, was published on February 22, 2019. Publication of this notice was followed by a 28 day comment period, in which several public comments were received. Many of these comments did not substantively address the proposed use of federal funds to support the construction of the proposed project in a floodplain and / or wetland, but primarily referred to alternatives within the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). These comments will be included as an appendix to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
All interested persons, groups and agencies are invited to submit written comments to OMB, regarding the proposed use of federal funds to support the construction of the proposed project in a floodplain and / or wetland, at the following email address: CDBGDR-Enviro@omb.nyc.gov or the address listed above. OMB will consider all comments received by close of business on September 23, 2019.
City of New York: Bill de Blasio, Mayor
New York City Office of Management and Budget: Melanie Hartzog, Director September 13, 2019