Dr. Amy Berkov CCNY Dept. of Biology
I’m an ecologist at the City College of New York, and a 40-year resident of the East Village. I firmly oppose the city’s preferred alternative for ESCR. I’ll start with a few words from the 12-page letter that Attorney General Tish James
submitted in response to the city’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS Appendix M, p. 367).
p. 3-4: “…the Draft EIS’s environmental justice analysis and its treatment of impacts to open space uses, tree canopy and air quality do not meet the requirements of the federal, state, and New York City law governing environmental review. These treatments are also arbitrary and capricious in violation of federal and state administrative law requirements.
Phased construction may alleviate some concerns about open space, but the
Attorney General also details problems with the circumscription of area used to
evaluate disproportionate impact on minority and low income people, the
methods used to quantify tree replacement, and the lack of mitigation for
potential increases air pollution during construction.
I thank Attorney General
James for pointing out the shaky legal grounds underpinning the city’s plan to
destroy 83 acres of NYC waterfront park.
In addition, if the city aspires to create a livable future for the next generation,
the city must address these questions:
1) If the city is convinced that ESCR Alternative 4 is the best we can do—and
given that they have HUD funds to spend—why did they repeatedly refuse to do
the one thing that might have convinced their opponents: assemble a panel of
outside (impartial) reviewers?
2) Why hasn’t the city provided temporary flood barriers in the ESCR region, which would offer some protection prior to and during construction, and while the community waits for infill to settle?
3) Why is the city planning for >6 feet of sea level rise in the financial district (to offer flood protection through the 2100s), but only planning for 2.5 feet of sea level rise in the ESCR region (to offer flood protection through the 2050s)?
The City maintains that their plan will offer protection through the 2100s, because they have the capacity to add an additional two feet of fill sometime in the
future. How do they reach this conclusion given that, even with this additional landfill, the project would seem to protect against only 4.5 feet of sea level rise?
Even with a second round of destruction/construction, the project will fail to offer flood protection:
a) if sea levels rise as predicted in the high-range estimates (4.83 feet in the 2080s, 6.25 feet by 2100), or
b) if the Antarctic experiences rapid ice melt (6.75 feet by the 2080s, 9.5 feet by 2100). (Data from the New York City Panel on Climate Change 2019 Report Executive Summary).
4) How would the city add two additional feet of fill without damaging or destroying the 1442 saplings that they intend to plant, and the expensive new infrastructure that they plan to install?
5) Why has the city left the Lower East Side Ecology Center, NYC’s premier grass-roots environmental organization, in the dark about the fate of their program (office and educational space in the Fireboat House, and compost yard in the East River Park)?
6) Why didn’t the city follow the City Environmental Quality Review Technical
Manual guidelines for biodiversity surveys?
7) Why has the city failed to develop thoughtful mitigation plans for the 10 NYS
rare animal species documented in the East River Park (especially the Golden Northern Bumble Bee)?
Bombus fervidus is a Critically Imperiled, “High Priority Species of Greatest Conservation Need” in NYS. It appears to be doing well in the East River Park; I have seen as many as five individuals foraging together in the Ecology Center’s pollinator garden. Bumble bees avoid roads, and would not be expected to “relocate”—as the city suggests in the Environmental Impact Statement. (Photo by Melinda Billings, Stewardship Coordinator at the Ecology Center).
The City Council should not approve the ULURP, because the city is still proposing an act of unprecedented and unnecessary destruction. If this was caused by a natural process, we would call it a natural disaster. If it was caused by anyone other than ourselves, we would call it an act of war.