The Grand Street Democrats passed a resolution Jan. 27 decrying the destruction of East River Park despite the recently discovered lack of a Value Engineering report or study. Such a document is needed for large complicated projects such as the East Side Coastal Resiliency flood control plan.
The Grand Street Dems are building a new Democratic club around Grand Street and the Lower East Side — inclusive, progressive, and active. The focus is on both neighborhood issues like transportation and development, and national priorities that affect our community, such as immigration rights.
Resolution on East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR)
In a reply to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, NYC’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) stated that the City’s Value Engineering Study on the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) plan could not be sent because:
“DDC’s search of agency records revealed no responsive documents for [the FOIL] request.”
This means that the present massive $1.45 billion plan lacks the main justification for the change that doubled the cost and destruction.
According to a “Fact Sheet” from de Blasio’s office on Sept. 28, 2018, “The adoption of the new design follows a value engineering study performed earlier this year and a review of the project by a panel of experts with experience from around the nation.”
When an independent analyst from the Dutch firm, Deltares, hired by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, reviewed the present ESCR plan (Alternative 4) in 2019, he also requested this Value Engineering Report: “The ‘value engineering report’ leads to the conclusion that Alternative 4 can be completed faster and with a greater degree of certainty,” he wrote. However, he never saw the document. “This value engineering report is not publicly available,” he noted.
The Value Engineering Report was used by the City as justification for approving a plan that would:
- completely raze the 46 acre East River Park;
- kill approximately 1000 mature trees and all other vegetation in the 82-year-old park;
- add a million tons of landfill over 1.2 miles of waterfront;
- double the initial cost of the project plan; and
- postpone even temporary flood protection for years.
If there is no Value Engineering Report, then there is no justification for the approved plan.
There has been a sustained outcry from community members and over 14,000 signers of petitions opposing the plan, including 2,000 NYCHA residents, who will be disproportionately affected. Advocates call for flood control that will not completely destroy the park as well as interim flood protection and robust alternate park spaces during the years of construction.
Due to this latest news, we demand the city suspend the ESCR project until it can be reviewed in full, including all documents used to support the conclusions in the City’s final environmental impact statement, by a panel of independent experts.
This position should be communicated to the Mayor and all City, State, and Federal elected officials who represent Grand Street Democrats.
Grand Street Democrats
January 27, 2021
For background information on this resolution, see:
Mayor de Blasio’s Sept. 28, 2018, “Fact Sheet”: https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/493-18/fact-sheet-de-blasio-administration-faster- updated-plan-east-side-coastal
Deltares Report: https://www.manhattanbp.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/East-Side-Coastal-Resiliency-Project-Review-final.pdf
Copy of the reply to the FOIL and to the original FOIL request: https://eastriverparkaction.org/value-engineering/
Appeal of the FOIL Jan. 15, 2021:
To: Appeals Officer, General Counsel
Re: Freedom of Information Law Request – Appeal Request No. 2020-0288
I hereby appeal the denial of access regarding my request that was sent to Records Access Officer Amina Wilson, Department of Design and Construction (DDC) via email to FOILDDC@ddc.nyc.gov, on December 14, 2020. (See attached.)
The records that were denied include: a value engineering study performed in early 2018 that evaluated the concept and design for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, and documents pertaining to the review of the project by a panel of experts with experience from around the nation on the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. These were referenced by Mayor De Blasio’s press release dated September 28, 2018, as stated in the original request.
In the DDC’s response to my request dated January 8, 2021 (attached), it is stated there were “no responsive documents”. However, we believe the search was not thorough and insufficient and hereby include further references of the said value engineering report/review/process:
– DDC’s Letter to Elected Officials dated January 15, 2019 (attached) on top of page 2
– Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) dated September 13, 2019: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/escr/downloads/pdf/FEIS/ESCR-EIS-Chapter-10.0-Response-to-Comments-on-the-DEIS.pdf
(p. 10.0-31 (pdf page 31)) under “Response” paragraph:
“As described in DEIS Chapter 2.0, “Project Alternatives,” identification of project alternatives and development of the Preferred Alternative went through a process that integrated input from the community outreach program while further examining site constraints, engineering challenges, cost, constructability, and other factors, including the urgent need to provide flood protection. The City has conducted a number of reviews of the proposed project, including a value engineering (i.e., value management) and constructability process to review the project. A panel of independent experts, with experience in similar projects around the country, was convened in conjunction with project stakeholders to review and provide outside perspective on the design process.”
– Deltares Report (Independent analyst hired by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer) from October, 2019: https://www.manhattanbp.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/East-Side-Coastal-Resiliency-Project-Review-final.pdf
“The City states that according to the ‘value engineering report’ (an internal report produced by the City) construction of Alternative 3 would be very difficult.”
“In terms of constructability, the City prefers Alternative 4 as it minimizes disruption to FDR drive. The ‘value engineering report’ leads to the conclusion that Alternative 4 can be completed faster and with a greater degree of certainty. (This value engineering report is not publicly available.)”
“The City states that according to their value engineering report, construction of Alternative 3 would be very difficult. The report concludes that Design Alternative 4 can be completed faster and with a greater degree of certainty. However, this value engineering report is not publicly available to demonstrate these conclusions.”
Based on the above references, I appeal both the sufficiency and the merits of the DDC’s determination of January 8, 2021.
As required by the Freedom of Information Law, the head or governing body of an agency, or whomever is designated to determine appeals, is required to respond within 10 business days of the receipt of an appeal. If the records are denied on appeal, please explain the reasons for the denial fully in writing as required by law.
Please contact me with any questions.
Thank you for our attention on the matter.