Judge rules East Side resiliency project can start

The Village Sun: Residents fighting to save East River Park from being razed and rebuilt for a coastal-resiliency project suffered a painful blow Thursday as a judge ruled for the city.

State Supreme Court Justice Melissa Crane denied the plaintiffs’ request for a restraining order to halt the scheme, clearing the way for work to start in just a few weeks.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the opponents would appeal the decision.

City Councilmember Carlina Rivera, whose district includes the park and who has been a staunch supporter of the plan, hailed the decision.

“We’ve already seen two tropical storms strike New York City this year,” Rivera told The Village Sun. “It’s clear that for the safety of our community, E.S.C.R. cannot wait any longer. Judge Crane agreed with what City legal experts have affirmed to us all along, and I look forward to this essential project moving ahead with the numerous commitments we secured for it.”

Attorney Arthur Schwartz brought the lawsuit — known as an Article 78, which challenges a city decision — on behalf of 90 organizations and individuals, including the group East River Park ACTION.

The community litigation argues that, under the “public trust doctrine,” the $1.45-billon project needs approval by the state Legislature, which must formally “alienate” the parkland first since the construction would take the park out of public use for at least several years.

The East Side Coastal Resiliency project would bury the existing 1.2-mile-long park under 8 to 9 feet of new topsoil to raise it above the floodplain. Up to 60 percent of the park will be closed at one time during the work.

Closing the park now, however, amid the coronavirus pandemic, when people desperately need open space for social distancing, is a terrible idea, Schwartz stressed. However, Thursday’s hearing before Crane did not focus much on the project’s potential adverse health impacts but on whether E.S.C.R. actually was designed to improve the park or merely turn it into a gigantic flood barrier. Read more>>