It’s how we feel and also a legal term that can help East River Park
First, some background
Last fall the City abruptly jettisoned a plan formed by Lower East Side residents and experts working together, to shield our community from the negative impacts of flooding caused by extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy. They announced a new “preferred alternative” for the project: using 8-10 feet of fill to elevate the entire East River shoreline, from Montgomery Street to 25th Street. This represents unprecedented destruction of a large municipal park, requiring the destruction or displacement of every living organism along 2.4 miles of the East River.
We’ve spent the last year working hard to convince the city to reconsider a less destructive plan. We believe in flood protection—including temporary flood protection—but we are not convinced that it must come at the cost of obliterating our neighborhood parks. We’ve attended meetings, testified, and held rallies and marches. Members of community organizations have met with elected officials and collected signatures from almost 9,000 Lower East Side residents, asking for flood protection that preserves, as much as possible, our beloved waterfront parks that sustain our health and well-being. The City’s responses have ranged from lack of transparency to obstruction. Ultimately, the City Council approved the plan last week. Work is scheduled to start in the spring of 2020.
Lawsuit for Alienation
Our next step now is to file a lawsuit for the City to apply for the Alienation of Parkland for East River Park, to request State supervision of the project. Alienation is required when a park will be used for non-park purposes; cities must receive authorization from the state via the NYS Legislature and the Governor. The City insists that Alienation is not required because it will still be a park on top of the 8-10 feet of fill. However, we believe East River Park will no longer be a usable park once construction begins, especially since we lack confidence in their timelines. Their primary objective is not a park purpose, but to build a flood barrier. By seeking State oversight through Alienation, we hope to increase our bargaining power to convince the City to:
- immediately provide temporary flood protection
- revisit a less destructive plan
- convene a panel of independent experts including engineers, environmental scientists, and public health specialists
- supply all documentation that was withheld from Deltares (including any meeting records referenced as the “value engineering report”)
- provide documentation that the plan is designed for sea level projections of the 2100s
- provide better mitigation (alternative parks, bike lanes, trees, etc.) for lost open space
- provide a clear plan for the Lower East Side Ecology Center that minimizes disruption
- Reduce the impact on biodiversity and provide funds for mitigation of NYS rare species
How to Join the Lawsuit for Alienation
Our lawsuit is being handled pro bono (for free) by Advocates for Justice, a nonprofit firm. As a plaintiff (one of the people bringing the lawsuit against the city), you will have no financial obligation or liability. Plaintiffs must be 18 in NY State.
To become a plaintiff, you sign a retainer. Here is the form in a pdf format.
If you can sign on as an organization or business, use the “Form for Organizations.”
You can print out the form, sign, scan and email it to Liz Turner, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please cc us: email@example.com Or we’d be glad to drop off and/or pick up a form. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once you have signed on as a plaintiff, Advocates for Justice will ask you for a written statement about how you use the park or concerns you have (such as health issues because you not have access to much of the promenade with its fresh air and mental health benefits, or because of the dust from the landfill that can worsen asthma or 9/11-related illnesses, for instance). Your answers will be used to create an affidavit that will be filed in court.
So be prepared for an essay question. Don’t worry; you’ll know the answer to what the park means to you.
While the representation in the lawsuit is pro bono, we do need to pay for filing fees and other expenses. We are also raising money for an environmental lawsuit, which will be separate. To donate, please visit the nonprofit Advocates for Justice, which is handling the case. Here’s the link: https://www.advocatesforjustice.net/escr-plan-case.html
You can read more about Alienation of Parkland here: https://parks.ny.gov/publications/documents/AlienationHandbook2017.pdf
by Amy Berkov, City College of New York, and Fannie Ip