East River Park Advocates Demand to See Resiliency Planning Documents
A rendering of the City’s plan for a resilient East River Park, rebuilt behind a seawall and elevated above nine feet of fill.
A coalition of activists based on the Lower East Side has filed suit against the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to force the release of documents detailing plans for resiliency infrastructure between Montgomery and East 25th Street.
The group, calling itself East River Park Action, contends that a consensus plan to make the East River Park safe from climate change, sea-level rise, and extreme weather events, which had widespread community support, was abruptly abandoned by City Hall in three years ago. That proposal would have preserved the existing waterfront park, but modified it with the creation of miles of gently rolling, landscaped hills, to form an absorbent coastline.
In place of the original plan, the organization alleges, the de Blasio administration substituted a radically different vision, which involves closing and demolishing the park, burying it under as much as ten feet of fill (to create a flood barrier), and then building a new park on top of this platform. When asked to justify this decision, City officials explained that a “value engineering study” compiled by a consulting firm made clear that this was the only viable option.
Above: A representative page from the Value Engineering Study, heavily redacted before being released to the public. Below: City Council candidate Christopher Marte: “The urgency of climate change is no excuse for decisions to be made behind closed doors with private interests leading the conversation.”
When community leaders asked to review this document, they were confronted with what they describe as delays and evasions. Last December, East River Park Action activists filed a request for the study under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). City representatives replied that were “no responsive documents” which indicated that the value engineering study did not exist. In March, after appealing this decision, Lower East Side activists were told that such a document did exist, but were given a heavily redacted version, with dozens of pages partially or entirely blacked out.
“We are looking for transparency, oversight and accountability,” says Jonathan Lefkowitz, a leader of the group. “Alternatives must be considered before destroying a heavily used 82-year-old park adjacent to a low- and middle-income neighborhood.” Members of the organization suspect that viable alternatives to the plan embraced by the de Blasio administration may be contained in the blacked-out sections of the value-engineering document.
Legal papers filed with the New York State Supreme Court by the coalition of plaintiffs on April 2 argue that, “what is at stake in this proceeding is critical information, which led to budgetary and policy rationales in support of the alternative selected by the City of New York to implement the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. The Project is slated to be the storm and climate flood hazard protection plan involving a 2.4 mile stretch of Manhattan’s Lower East Side River Waterfront.”
The same pleading alleges that, “the selected policy alternative, as a result of recommendations set forth in the Value Engineering Study, was contrary to the selected alternative that the City represented to the public would be chosen. Critically, this alternative, concealed from public review, would have a devastating impact upon the East River Park.” It continues, “the policy alternative selected by the City of New York, was based upon a decision-making process and factual underpinning that was cloaked in a veil of secrecy. The selected policy alternative calls for the destruction and demolition of the East River Park for a period of at least five years.”
East River Park Action also claims that, “members of the community, particularly representatives of the local Community Boards and the Borough President’s Office, were never advised of the fact that while they were being consulted, the real decision-making was taking place in consultation with private contractors hired to perform a Value Engineering Study.”
Joining East River Park Action as a co-plaintiff in the suit is Christopher Marte, a candidate for the City Council seat that will be vacated by Margaret Chin later this year, as a result of term limits. Mr. Marte observes that, “if Hurricane Sandy were to happen again tomorrow, almost all of District 1 would be just as vulnerable as it was in 2012. We are living in a state of climate emergency and must take immediate action to protect our City. But the urgency of climate change is no excuse for decisions to be made behind closed doors with private interests leading the conversation.”
He continues, “the only way the City is going to be able to meet standards and deadlines is if the public is able to hold them accountable, and if the impacted communities are treated as the stakeholders that they are. It is their homes that will be underwater, it is their park that will be destroyed—not Mayor de Blasio’s.”
An Informed Citizenry
LMHQ, the collaborative workspace operated by the Downtown Alliance for companies in the technology, advertising, media, and information industries, will offer a free, online symposium, “Know Before You Vote: Who Does What,” on Wednesday, April 14, starting at noon. The the League of Women Voters, the Alliance for Downtown New York, and the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association will partner to demystify this especially significant election year, in which not only the Mayor, City Comptroller, and Public Advocate, but also the Manhattan Borough President and Lower Manhattan’s City Council member, will all be new to their offices, as a result of term limits. The next session in this series (on May 12) will explain the new phenomenon of ranked-choice voting. To register for either, please browse: https://lmhq.nyc/attend-event
Born to Be Wild
The Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) is urging residents to observe, admire, even adore local fauna—but to do so from a distance. The agency’s Keep It Wild campaign springs from the Authority’s Strategic Plan, which aims (in part) to establish the 92 acres of the community as a biodiversity haven and sanctuary for nature.
Battery Park City is currently home to a diverse array of wildlife. More than 100 species of resident and migratory birds, along with countless species of insects (including native pollinators) inhabit local gardens and lawns, but these green spaces provide all the food and habitat the animals need. Sadly, wildlife does not benefit from human interaction (however well intentioned), so the BPCA asks that residents avoid feeding animals and limit themselves to watching from a safe distance, for the safety of both man and beast.
Re: The New Roaring Twenties: New York City Won’t Be The Same, But It Will Be Great
(The BroadsheetDAILY April 8, 2021)
To the editor:
Andrew Greenblatt could be right. New York City could rebound. The question, as always, is rent.
My husband and I moved to Lower Manhattan in 1972 when the city was on its knees. (Ford to NY: Drop Dead). Cops were nowhere. There was “panic” in needle park. etc. But landlords with empty buildings were begging people to move in. Even if illegally. \We signed a commercial lease for our loft in what would become Tribeca because all the butter and egg and spice people had fled.
The big question today: now that the big corporations have gone, will landlords or the city LOWER rents or legalize buildings across the city to allow AFFORDABLE rents for artists and others to move in? We had to beg and plead for the Loft Law to make us legal. It took years.
Let’s not wait. The city right now has tons of empty office space that can never be filled. Create incentives NOW for landlords to create mixed use affordable housing in those buildings NOW.
Jean Bergantini Grillo
To the editor:
Great commentary by Andrew Greenblatt on New York’s resurgence. Ready to join the roar.
To the editor:
What joy to read this uplifting analysis! As a longtime resident, I agree with Andrew Greenblatt; Lower Manhattan will always bounce back. Thanks for everything, Broadsheet, but particularly for remembering that the spirit of our neighborhood is immortal.
M. M. De Voe
Re: Community Board 1 Discussion Tonight Will Examine Battery Park City Authority Finances
(The BroadsheetDAILY April 7, 2021)
To the editor:
Good luck, my former BPC condo owners. I saw the writing on the wall, sold and left.
In 2011, our ground rent doubled instead of tripled and the paper described it as a give away to the “fat cats” owners of Battery Park City. City politicians fall all over themselves to protect the renters ($480,000 per unit in saved PILOT???!!), but the owners can go fend for themselves.
State and local politicians are looking to use the PILOT to fund other projects and budget gaps. Meanwhile the owners (like I was) invested our life savings and invested in the City. Fat cats when most of us are living in 600 SF cookie cutter one-bedrooms.
Sorry, guys, it’s a beautiful community, but I could not afford to grow old there. Best of luck to all of you.
OPINION AND ANALYSIS
The New Roaring Twenties
New York City Won’t Be The Same, But It Will Be Great
A chorus of New York naysayers are telling us that the City will never be the same after this pandemic. They are right—but not in the way they think. New York City is on the cusp of another “Roaring 20’s,” and I, for one, can’t wait.
One hundred years ago we were recovering from a pandemic (the Spanish Flu) and a Great War that spread fear and death. New York is facing a similar trauma. Loved ones lost are never coming back. Some of us have lost jobs, homes, or even just our favorite restaurants. A century ago, when it was all over, people were ready to let loose—and let loose they did. I believe that a similar spirit is about to start a recovery that will reshape the city in exciting ways, creating new opportunities for many.
Witnesses to the brutal murder of their families and neighbors and the violent destruction of their communities, a cadre of Jewish women in Poland―some still in their teens―helped transform Jewish youth groups into resistance cells to fight the Nazis. With courage, guile, and nerves of steel, these “ghetto girls” paid off Gestapo guards, hid revolvers in loaves of bread and jars of marmalade, and helped build systems of underground bunkers. In The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos, Judy Batalion—granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and author of White Walls—brings these women’s stories to light. The book, scheduled for release in April 2021 and already optioned by Steven Spielberg for a major motion picture, is an unforgettable true tale of bravery, friendship, and survival. Join Batalion and Molly Crabapple, award-winning artist, author, and journalist, for a conversation about The Light of Days. $10
This is part of a series called Debate Defends Democracy. The Constitution intends the House to reflect the political will of each state’s populace, but are we all equally represented? With the decennial redistricting process getting underway, and state legislatures considering a raft of voting regulations in response to the record voter turnout of the 2020 elections, what are the considerations for American democracy? Free
Skyscraper Museum webinar. Mark Sarkisian is the structural and seismic engineering partner in SOM’s San Francisco office. He holds fourteen U.S. and international patents for high-performance seismic structural mechanisms and environmentally responsible structural systems. Mark will discuss the structural design of SOM’s Jin Mao Tower, which when completed in 1999 at 420 m / 1,380 ft. was first of the trio of supertalls in Shanghai’s Pudong business district. Its multiple functions, with offices on the lower floors and a luxury hotel and observation deck above, established the mixed-use typology that would characterize many Chinese supertalls in the next two decades. Mark will explain the innovative foundations and seismic design of Jin Mao and the concrete core and mega-column structural system that accommodated the dramatic central atrium that rises through the hotel stories. Free
This Pen Parentis Literary Salon features readings and a roundtable with the writers Marion Winik, Melanie Hatter and Marian Fontana. The theme is love and loss. Interactive Q&A with audience participation. Free
Upcoming Community Board Meetings This Week
4/14 Large Venue Working Group – 6:00 PM
4/14 Licensing & Permits Committee – 6:15 PM
4/15 Quality of Life & Service Delivery Committee 6PM
4/15 Quality of Life & Service Delivery Committee – 6:30 PM
‘No Epitaphs Spill Out’
The Stella Adler Studio of Acting will host, “This is Not a Small Voice: An Evening of Poetry as Celebration” (part of its Harold Clurman Poetry Reading Series) on Tuesday, April 20 (starting at 7:00 pm). Readers will include contemporary poets Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Sonia Sanchez, and Aracelis Girmay. This online event is free, and open to the public.
Liberty Community Gardens Wait Listers Will Finally Get Their Hands Dirty
Mounded with dark soil, teeming with earthworms, 26 new community garden plots are ready for action at the corner of Albany and West Streets. Thanks to the deconstruction of the Rector Street Bridge and ramp in 2019, and the support of the Battery Park City Authority, the New York State Department of the Transportation and the New York City Department of Transportation, Liberty Community Gardens (LCG), a cherished part of the neighborhood, has expanded by about a third.
Liberty Community Gardens were founded in 1987 by local residents with the guidance of Battery Park City Parks. Initially, there were 24 plots on the north and south sides of Rector lawn.
Local Leaders Seek Temporary Easing of Federal Mortgage Regulations on Condominiums and Cooperatives
Community Board 1 is calling upon elected officials to intercede on behalf of condominiums and cooperatives, where the economic downtown triggered by the pandemic coronavirus has resulted in distressed finances. To read more…
‘How Is One to Speak of Such Things
and Not Lose One’s Mind?’
Museum of Jewish Heritage Commemorates Losses Among Community of Survivors
Battery Park City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage is marking the occasion by launching a new tribute page that shares the stories of people who survived the Nazi campaign of genocide, but perished during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. To read more…
The Fate of a Neighborhood
State’s Highest Court Blocks Suit by Brewer, Chin Opposing Two Bridges Plan
On Tuesday, the New York State Court of Appeals effectively ended a lawsuit begun in 2018, in which Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Margaret Chin sought to compel the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to subject several massive residential developments planned for the Lower East Side to the highest-possible degree of legal scrutiny. New York’s highest judicial review panel upheld an August ruling by the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, which itself had overturned a 2019 lower-court decision favoring Ms. Brewer and Ms. Chin. To read more…
Harboring Good Will
Highly Regarded Maritime School on Governors Island to Expand
A years-long campaign by Lower Manhattan community leaders, elected officials, and parents came to fruition on Monday when an agreement to expand the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School on Governors Island was released.
The Trust for Governors Island and the School Construction Authority (SCA) announced that several long-standing priorities will be addressed in one package of funding: the Harbor School will grow into a building adjacent to its current home, where it will have room for an additional 18 classrooms, a pool and a gymnasium. To read more…
Getting Squeezed Coming and Going
Washington Okays Congestion Pricing Program that Local Leaders Fear will Penalize Lower Manhattan Residents
The prospect of Lower Manhattan residents being penalized for the privilege of driving to or from their homes moved a step closer to reality on Tuesday, when the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sent word to City and State officials that they would allow the congestion pricing plan, devised by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, to move forward under the less rigorous of two possible environmental oversight standards.
The FHWA, an arm of the federal Department of Transportation, decided to allow New York to move ahead under the looser benchmark of an environmental assessment, rather than a full environmental impact statement. “An Environmental Assessment generally requires less time to complete than an Environmental Impact Statement, should no significant impacts be identified,” the agency said in a statement. To read more…
Pearl of Wisdom
Brewer Pushes for FiDi Thoroughfare to Be Made Pedestrian-Friendly in Perpetuity
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is pushing the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to expand and make permanent a trial implementation of the Open Street program in Lower Manhattan. Since last summer, the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has each day restricted vehicular access to Pearl Street, between Broad Street and Hanover Square, from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm and again from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm To read more…
Alliance For Downtown New York Hosts 2021 Shred-A-Thon
And Clothing Drop-Off
After a year like the one we all just endured and the promise of a brighter day emerging, the idea of “spring cleaning” takes on new energy and meaning.
Now is the time to round up all the old clothes and unwanted documents that have been piling up and bring them over to Fulton Street (between Cliff and Gold Streets) for the Downtown Alliance’s annual dual shred-a-thon and clothing drop-off Saturday, April 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A shredding truck parked on Fulton Street will securely dispose of and recycle all your sensitive documents, tax receipts, junk mail and old bills.
The Alliance is also partnering with NYC clothing recycler Wearable Collections, which is providing a bin to collect all dry, used clean clothing including shoes, sneakers, belts and hats, as well as household items such as linens, towels and handbags.
Rain or shine, the Alliance will be there to dispose of your much-loved old outfits and no-longer-needed memories, minus a few items (e.g., carpeting, rugs, bath mats, comforters, pillows, large luggage). This spring will be even sweeter when you’ve got some extra space.
Local Leaders Get Irredentist to Reclaim Park Space Dispossessed for a Decade
Community Board 1 (CB1) wants the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to give back park space beneath the Brooklyn Bridge that was “temporarily” closed more than a decade ago. The area, informally known as “Brooklyn Banks,” is an iconic destination for skateboarders, because the streetscape provides an undulating terrain of ramps, rails, ledges, and jumps. Long before any of these stunts were legal in New York, boarders from around the United States would come to the City to compete there, and connect with one another. To read more…
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
More Survivors than Responders Now are Submitting Claims
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) has released its annual report for 2020, which documents some significant developments.
Over the course of its ten years of operation thus far, the VCF has awarded $7.76 billion to more than 34,400 individuals who have suffered death or personal injury as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The vast majority of these injuries take the form of illness caused by exposure to toxic materials that were released by the destruction of the World Trade Center.
1742 – George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Messiah makes its world-premiere in Dublin, Ireland.
1777 – American Revolutionary War: American forces are ambushed and defeated in the Battle of Bound Brook, New Jersey.
1861 – American Civil War: Fort Sumter surrenders to Confederate forces.
1870 The New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art is founded.
1919 – Eugene V. Debs is imprisoned at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, for speaking out against the draft during World War I.
1943 – World War II: The discovery of mass graves of Polish prisoners of war killed by Soviet forces in the Katyń Forest Massacre is announced, causing a diplomatic rift between the Polish government-in-exile in London from the Soviet Union, which denies responsibility.
1953 – CIA director Allen Dulles launches the mind-control program Project MKUltra.
1970 – An oxygen tank aboard the Apollo 13 Service Module explodes, putting the crew in great danger and causing major damage to the Apollo Command/Service Module (codenamed “Odyssey”) while en route to the Moon.
2017 – The US drops the largest ever non-nuclear weapon on Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
1519 – Catherine de’ Medici, Italian-French wife of Henry II of France (d. 1589)
1570 – Guy Fawkes, English soldier, planned the Gunpowder Plot (d. 1606)
1743 – Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States (d. 1826)
1852 – Frank Winfield Woolworth, American businessman, founded the F. W. Woolworth Company (d. 1919)
1902 – Philippe de Rothschild, French Grand Prix driver, playwright, and producer (d. 1988)
1906 – Samuel Beckett, Irish novelist, poet, and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1989)
1931 – Dan Gurney, American race car driver and engineer (d. 2018)
1592 – Bartolomeo Ammannati, Italian architect and sculptor (b. 1511)