After input from residents and consultation with Community Board 1 (CB1), the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) has agreed to revisit its plan to bring resiliency features to the ballfields. The agency now intends to prioritize less expensive, temporary measures that can be implemented faster, and later removed when more comprehensive and more permanent devices designed to prevent flooding have been installed nearby.
The ballfields, located alongside West Street (between Murray and Warren Streets), which are a prized resource for Lower Manhattan families, were effectively destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, and then repaired on an expedited basis to re-open the following spring, in time for Downtown Little League’s annual Opening Day ceremony. But while that preliminary rehabilitation work succeeded in making the fields available once again, due to the location, elevation and open nature of the fields, it did little to prevent future damage from similar (or more severe) climate disasters. Additional millions of dollars in damage was inflicted upon the adjacent Asphalt Green Community Center during the storm, with extensive mechanical and electrical restoration and replacements required in the cellar and sub-cellar levels.
To address this longer-term priority, the BPCA hired as consultants an arm of the Parsons Transportation Group, which advises government and corporate clients on large infrastructure projects. The Parsons team came up with two broad recommendations for protection of the ballfields and the Community Center. First, they proposed erecting a permanent flood wall around the eastern boundary of the facility (which fronts West Street), with arms extending around the sides on Murray and Warren Streets. This would protect the fields from flood waters that approached from the West Street side, as happened in 2012.
Second, the Parsons consultants advocated for deployable barriers at the ballfields entrances on Murray and Warren Streets. The combination of the permanent and deployable elements, along with waterproofing precautions on the two residential buildings located at the facility’s western side, would protect the fields and the Community Center from flood waters that approached from the West Street side, as happened in 2012.
The budget for these combined measures was projected to be approximately $13 million. Implementing these designs would have also meant taking the ballfields out of service, either partially or entirely, for prolonged periods over the course of approximately one year, during the playing seasons when local leagues use them most. (It was projected that the construction could likely be performed over the course of a year with only partial shutdowns of the fields, while the construction duration could be shortened by up to several months if both fields were shut down at the same time.)
But after a March 21 community meeting, at which a chorus of residents voiced concerns about even a temporary loss of access to the fields, the BPCA agreed to evaluate the possibility of pursuing a different approach to the protection of the fields and the community center. Noting that separate, nearby resiliency structures (planned for the Esplanade and the northern border of Battery Park City) would make the ballfield and Community Center flood-protection measures redundant within a few years, the Authority directed its consultant team, now led by design firm STV, to, “focus on temporary measures that may be employed to minimize construction-related usage interruptions to the many organizations, and more than 50,000 local youth, who use these treasured community assets each year,” according to BPCA spokesman Nick Sbordone.
The Authority, “will be shifting to a design approach that contemplates temporary, rather than permanent, solutions to storm surge flooding at the ballfields, to offer protection to the fields in advance of the more comprehensive protection realized upon completion of the North and South Battery Park City Resiliency Projects in the coming years,” he added, while noting that, “permanent storm water drainage improvements will remain part of the project.”
A full analysis of a temporary resiliency scheme at this location, along with the comparative advantages of this approach relative to a permanent barrier system, will be performed by STV. BPCA representatives cautioned at the March 21 meeting that a temporary solution would not offer protection as complete or robust as a permanent barrier system and would thus entail a greater assumption of risk. For that reason, they pointed out, it is important to have a full understanding of the risks before making a final decision. Additionally, while the projected timeframe for completion of the North and South Battery Park City resiliency projects may be as little as three years, any complications or delays in either of those plans would result in a lengthier time during which the temporary measures would be relied upon to protect the ballfields and Community Center.
One possible approach to a temporary design, would rely on metal plates that can be attached to the exterior of the existing fence. This approach would likely allow for the fields to remain open throughout installation of the resiliency measure, with the only diminished use consisting of a small safety buffer around the field’s perimeter, separating the project’s work zone from the playing fields. This possible design, along with the logistics associated with construction, were discussed as a preliminary concept and are subject to further design work to be performed by STV. Once the broader measures now being designed for the Esplanade and the northern boundary of the community are in place, these plates will be removed, and the fence restored to its current, open design.
This approach was formulated in partnership with CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, led by chairwoman Tammy Meltzer, who said at the Board’s April 23 meeting, “the original ballfields resiliency plan would have been redundant within a three-year period, because the Authority’s plan to protect the north side of Battery Park City goes from the Esplanade and Chambers and all the way over to Greenwich. So they have come to the conclusion that they can work on more short-term resiliency protection for the ballfields, which does not limit the fields in terms of playing time over the next three or four years.”
The Board then adopted a resolution noting that, “CB1 is very appreciative of the BPCA and its team of partners, who have provided numerous public presentations over the past year to engage the public on their plans for the Battery Park City Ballfields Project.” The same measure observed that, “the timing of the original Ballfields Resilience Project, from 2019 through 2022, with principal work taking place from 2019 through 2020, would require sustained disruption to the use of the fields and months of full closure during prime seasons in the spring, summer and fall.” The resolution concluded that, “CB1 supports the short-term protection concepts presented by BPCA and STV, that will enable the ballfields to remain open and not cause any sustained disruption.”