East Side flood protection plan passes City Council, but legal challenge looms

Curbed: A $1.45 billion effort to transform Manhattan’s east side with flood protections overwhelmingly passed the City Council Thursday, but local opponents are preparing a lawsuit against the city’s plan.

The East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project will reconstruct a 2.4-mile stretch of waterfront including East River Park, which would be razed and rebuilt up to 10 feet higher. An earlier version of the plan would have closed the park completely during more than three years of work, but an eleventh hour switch to a phased construction plan ensures that nearly half of the park will remain open throughout the project.

“Today we have a phased, safe, and timely ESCR construction plan,” said Lower East Side Councilmember Carlina Rivera during Thursday’s vote. “We have to act fast to protect the east side, and ESCR will not just ensure that protection, it’s going to provide a historic investment that will help our communities reverse decades of environmental injustice.”

The trio of lawmakers who represent the affected Manhattan neighborhoods—Councilmembers Rivera, Margaret Chin, and Keith Powers—negotiated a package of commitments and community investments from the de Blasio administration to mollify locals’ misgivings about the plan. Many of critics concerns stem from an abrupt overhaul to the plan in 2018, which followed four years of talks between locals and officials on a plan that would have built flood barriers on the western side of East River Park to keep the green space intact.

Now, a coalition of community groups plan to sue the city over the plan, charging that the city misstepped by not seeking “parkland alienation” from the state legislature in the form of legislation that would allow East River Park to temporarily become a construction zone. Read more>>