Future of East Side flood protection plan debated at heated hearing

Curbed: The de Blasio administration’s plan to build flood protections along Manhattan’s east side ignited a firestorm of criticism when it was overhauled last fall. Locals saw the move as effectively tossing aside years of community engagement in favor of a plan that requires a complete closure of the East River Park during construction, leaving neighborhoods starved for open space in the lurch for three and a half years.

City officials stress that the 11th-hour change is to ensure that longterm storm resiliency infrastructure is in place as quickly as possible. But a number of questions linger as the plan reaches a key point in the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP): a vote by the City Planning Commission (CPC).

On Wednesday, dozens raised concerns during testimony at a CPC hearing where neighbors and elected officials expressed their skepticism of the current proposal.

“I, like many of my elected colleagues, continue to have serious issues with a number of unresolved questions outlined by local community boards and advocates that must be resolved as we move through this ULURP process,” said City Council member Carlina Rivera, who represents the area and whose support (or lack thereof) carries significant weight in the ULURP process. The Council tends to fall in line with the vote of the local lawmaker.

The East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project stretches from Montgomery Street to East 25th Street (and includes a significant portion of East River Park), with the goal of providing flood protection for 2.4 miles of Manhattan’s coastline. Originally, the city planned to build berms, floodgates, and other barriers along the FDR Drive. Under that plan, flood waters would have inundated the park, but protected the lower Manhattan neighborhoods. Read more>>