At hearings and meetings, hundreds of us point out misinformation from the City about the East Side Coastal Resiliency project to bury East River Park under eight feet of landfill.
We Really Listen
Maybe the biggest lie is that the Department of Design and Construction and Parks Department are listening to the community. If they listened, they’d have to revise what they say based on reams of evidence we’ve provided over and over.
Cars Over Community
Lorraine Grillo, Commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction, at the hearing before the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Sitings and Dispositions Oct. 3, talked about the reasons the previous plan developed with Rebuild by Design was superseded by this much bigger, more expensive project.
One of the most important reasons was to eliminate years of nighttime pile driving to build flood walls along the FDR Drive. That was so the city would not have to close one lane of traffic during the day. The city is demolishing our park so it won’t have to disrupt traffic. That tells our modest-income neighborhood that cars are more important than community.
It’s a particularly terrible argument because there are three lanes the whole length of East River Park that merge into two lanes. It would make little to no difference in traffic to close a lane during the day.
It’s also terrible environmental policy. Automobiles emissions contribute to high rates of asthma in our neighborhood. Make it less convenient to use the FDR. Don’t just keep traffic flowing smoothly at the community’s expense.
The Trees are Old and Sick and Dying
Another defense of the project given at the Oct. 3 hearing was that the 1,000 mature trees in the park, many 80 years old, are at the end of their lives. They’re old and sick and dying. And they’d just be killed by another storm surge that would inundate the park with salt water.
That is a slander against the many magnificent elms, oaks, London Planes and other beautiful trees in the prime of life, and they’re all Hurricane Sandy survivors.
Is the parks department really so ignorant that they think trees get old and feeble on the same time span as people? We’ve heard this argument used as an excuse to demolish Fort Greene Park’s wonderful trees, too.
Trees that are damaged in a storm or that become frail or sick should be replaced as they fail, not while they are in their big shady form as they are now. New trees should be saltwater resilient. In the meantime, we should construct flood protection in a way that will preserve as much of the park as possible as a floodable park that will recover.
The Promenade is Already Flooding
An official also said the East River Park promenade has already flooded and has had to be closed numerous times. That’s completely untrue. It was closed during Hurricane Sandy. That’s it.
You Must Have Artificial Turf
A reason the administration gives for having to elevate the park eight feet is so that it can’t be flooded because ball fields will be destroyed and have to be reconstructed in a lengthy and expensive process. It is true that synthetic turf fields cannot withstand flooding. They are very expensive to replace. Natural grass turf, however, is resilient. It recovers quickly.
Why isn’t the park using natural turf fields in East River Park and throughout the city? The city says it takes more maintenance. There are many reasons why it should be worth it for the city to budget the kinds of maintenance natural turf requires.
Here is from a New York City publication on materials that should be used for parks:
“Natural grass reduces surface temperatures, lowers noise levels, traps and biodegrades airborne pollutants, supports worms and insects that are fed on by birds and other animals.”
“Artificial turf may cause environmental damage, including consumption of raw materials and energy, and emissions to air, water, and land…due to the lack of transpiration and heat trapping in the plastic and rubber materials, the surface temperature of artificial turf is elevated (20 °C or even more above that of natural grass) under direct sunlight; production and transportation of artificial turf release large amounts of GHGs; (greenhouse gasses); and artificial turf needs to be disposed of in landfills at the end of its functional life as most of the components cannot be recycled.”
The high temperatures on artificial turf are extreme. My husband replaced two pair of shoes he used for softball because the soles melted playing on artificial turf. Clearly, the artificial turf is not good for the players on the fields, but that’s especially true for children who are breathing the chemicals emitted from the synthetic turf and possibly overheating because the temperature of the fields is so extreme.
Walls and More Walls
The city often says they’re killing and rebuilding East River Park because NYCHA leaders insist on flood protection as soon as possible.
And because NYCHA leaders objected to looking at an ugly wall against the FDR (the previous plan has some plain flood walls along the highway). Meanwhile, NYCHA is getting its own flood protection via FEMA-funded big ugly walls. It’s one of the many HUH? moments you get when you listen to the City too much.
The city has not considered a green living wall. Besides being pleasing to view, a green wall will help absorb the toxic emissions from the heavy traffic on the FDR. I asked a Department of Design and Construction official about it, and he said the maintenance would be too high.
Hard Truth–Our Neighborhood is too Poor for Long-Term Maintenance of Environmentally and Socially Best Practices for the Neighborhood or the Earth.
There it is. Maintenance costs. It seems that this park is being rebuilt not to withstand storm surges but to withstand future budget constraints. Officials know this is not a neighborhood that can raise millions for a conservancy the way Central Park does to maintain its natural turf fields.
Truth: New York City Can Do Better
City Council: VOTE NO.
It’s time to reevaluate the use of the $1.45 billion to rebuild the park in this destructive way. We can redevelop the plan to improve the environment, not destroy it. We can cover the FDR with a park. We can build in future maintenance costs so that we can have natural green ballfields and green flood walls in places where it’s not viable to cover the entire FDR.
It’s time to stop this current brute-force, destructive, 20th century-style monster of a plan that is now in effect. It’s time to use 21st Century imagination and care for our climate in the city and the earth.
Here are more Lies and Facts we published at the beginning of June compiled by Marie de Cenival.. We politely called it “Dissembling.” Some of the same points as above, some different ones. The City has not changed its arguments at all.