Ground unbroken, East River Park project shows city’s steep resiliency learning curve

NY1: East River Park is still here. 

Earlier this year, the city told residents to expect construction to start in the spring on the $1.45 billion project to raise East River Park on top of eight feet of fill, part of the city’s flagship — and controversial — climate change resiliency project. 

The construction crews never showed up. Little League games continued as scheduled. In September, a false alarm over what activists thought was the first tree removed during the park's demolition led to an emergency sit-in. According to the parks department, the tree was removed at least three years ago.

Yet climate change has not waited out the delays caused by the pandemic and contracting issues that the city says have held up construction. In the wake of Hurricane Ida, which caused flash floods that killed 13 people in the city, the city faces a laundry list of projects to adapt to a changing climate, most of them still in the planning phase. 

East River Park remains the city’s most ambitious such project, and residents, politicians, policy experts and activists on both sides of it agree that there are important lessons to be learned for future resiliency measures. City officials now say construction will start in the park this fall. 

The project has been dogged for years by concerns over lack of transparency, poor inter-agency communication and ongoing delays. The issues have fed frustration among residents, even as city officials say they are investing an unprecedented sum in a public park that primarily serves a low-income community in order to protect it against climate change for decades.

“It doesn't mean that the plan is not a good plan,” said Frank Avila-Goldman, a member of a local resident council that has consulted with the city on the plan. “It just means how it came about refuted trust.” Read more>>