LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan — About 1,000 trees are set to be destroyed and removed from East River Park as part of the city’s resiliency plan and climate activists are strongly pushing against it.
Three activists were arrested Monday morning in an attempt to delay construction by trying to stop the workers from building a fence. Summonses were issued as a result.
Emily Johnson and activists like her hope to save the land, which will see a makeover as part of the city’s East Side Coastal Resiliency Plan.
“This is a violent plan that will bulldoze 50 acres, kill 1,000 trees, harm people, cause death to people and it’s for a fake resiliency plan,” Johnson said.
Johnson is an American Indian from the Yup’ik Nation and feels a need to protect the indigenous land once home to the Lenape tribe, the tribe native to Manhattan.
Killing the trees, the group says, will remove what naturally filters the air on the Lower East Side, where asthma rates are high because of emissions from the FDR Drive.
The city’s Department of Parks and Recreation tells PIX11 News in part:
“As the city’s tree stewards and experts — they are our responsibility, we take their care seriously, and we do not remove them casually. ESCR will nearly double the number of trees in East River Park, with 50 different species that will provide shade and will withstand salt spray and the extreme weather that comes with climate change.”
The City Council voted on the plan in 2019 and it was approved.
The city also says the project will protect 100,000 residents in lower Manhattan — communities hard hit by Hurricane Sandy — from future storm surges and tidal flooding.
The Department of Design and Construction also telling PIX11 News:
“The project will return East River Park with a design drawn from years of community input, updating the 80-year-old park with new passive recreation and better access to the waterfront, transform parks and open spaces throughout lower manhattan and add 2,800 new trees to the park and surrounding neighborhoods.”
For Kay Prieto who grew up here and others in the area, experiences will soon just be memories if their hope to salvage the land doesn’t come true.
“My grandma raised me in this park and it means a lot to me, especially after losing her,” Prieto said. “I lost her, I lost the apartment I grew up in and now I’m losing the park I’m growing up in.”
Despite the arrests, advocates say it will not prevent them from coming out here in the weeks and months to come as they continue to protest against the city’s project.