Group demands hearing on major project at East River Park

Local News

MANHATTAN, N.Y. — Park advocates chained themselves to trees outside City Hall on Friday and made their case to people in the area, including New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. 

A group of neighbors, park visitors and supporters want a City Council oversight hearing on the major resiliency project planned at East River Park. 

The green space is made up of more than 50 acres of land along the river and the FDR Drive on the Lower East Side. It was flooded during Superstorm Sandy and a major rebuild and resiliency project was planned. 

The City Council approved the project two years ago. However, area residents have been asking for a review since some aspects of the project have changed, including the cost which was initially estimated at around $1.4 billion. 

Some of the work has already begun, with more phases to start this month. It could take four to five years, with partial temporary closures. 

The group is not opposed to flood protection. They say they’re opposed to the way the current project and plans have come to be. 

In the summer, City Comptroller Scott Stringer sent the contract for the project back to the administration for review. 

Sarah Wellington, an organizer of the group, said the price tag has ballooned to $2 billion. 

“What I see is the city terrorizing East River Park and thousands who love it. It has been there for 80 years,” she said. 

The project would elevate the ground level of the park by 8 to 10 feet. Parts of it would be temporarily closed. Trees have been marked to be removed. 

A spokesperson for the Parks Department said the project would boost the park’s resiliency in future storms.

“[This] critical open space improvement project will ensure that these waterfront parks are accessible and resilient for the surrounding community in the face of our daunting climate future,” the spokesperson said.

Crews are supposed to plant nearly double the number of new trees in East River Park, bringing the number to more than 1,800. They will try to transplant healthy trees to other locations.

This week, the City Council also approved the first climate action plan that will address resiliency and protection projects in all the boroughs. It prioritizes projects in high-risk areas. 

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