News that gives us insight into problems and solutions for East River Park: Floods, Environmental risks, Parkland and Fresh Air for Mental and Physical Health, Trees, Biodiversity, City Policies and Resiliency Solutions from Other Places
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FDR Drive Tear-Down and Manhattan Land Extension Eyed in Downtown Flood Plan
BY RACHEL HOLLIDAY SMITH AND SAMANTHA MALDONADO NOV 15, 2021, The City
A higher waterfront and a lower highway may be on tap for Lower Manhattan.
The city has a new proposal for protecting the Financial District and Seaport from future flooding: extending the eastern edge of Manhattan’s tip by up to 188 feet — while raising the shoreline and possibly taking down the elevated FDR Drive from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Battery.
Note from Marcella Durand: Doesn’t mention ESCR (as usual for The City, which oddly avoids the topic in most of its coverage) but does mention the FiDi plan might include a new helipad 🙄 plus a quote from a LES resident about what the plan might mean for Two Bridges in terms of FDR traffic…
The City does note this: Just north on the highway, between the Brooklyn Bridge and East Houston Street, average daily traffic was 136,765 vehicles in 2019, DOT data shows.
That’s far more traffic than goes by FiDi and more than north of us. But we get ESCR and they get traffic calming. Hmmm.
Yacht Full of Climate Scientists Plots Giant Sea Gate to Save Manhattan
Aboard a boat sailing the city’s coastline, an organization outlines the $30 billion plan to keep the island safe from flooding.
By Polly Mosendz, November 4, 2021, Bloomberg Green
…a group of scientists, engineers, politicians, and a ship captain spent a recent morning contemplating the deaths of their fellow New Yorkers at the hands of Hurricane Ida’s flood waters. The day trip marked the ninth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, and everyone on board had been brought together by a singular mission. They think a series of gates — vast steel doors arranged around the city that can be shut if disaster looms — are the key to protecting the region from disastrous storm damage caused by climate change.
Protected Too Late: U.S. Officials Report More Than 20 Extinctions
The animals and one plant had been listed as endangered species. Their stories hold lessons about a growing global biodiversity crisis.
Without conservation, scientists say, many more species would have disappeared. But with humans transforming the planet so drastically, they add, much more needs to be done.
“Biodiversity is the foundation of social and economic systems, yet we have not managed to solve the extinction crisis,” said Leah Gerber, an ecologist and director of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes at Arizona State University.
And from the comments section: “Yet another article about a global problem that will not have any impact at all on hyperlocal decisions made by local politicians in my own densely urban area. On Tuesday morning, I saw so many warblers among the beautiful mature oak trees of East River Park–I tried to identify as many as I could, knowing that these trees are slated to be cut down and turned into park benches as part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency plan, which calls for the destruction of this entire park, including all of its trees (counting among them a perfect American Elm), native bushes, a variety of milkweed stands, grasses, its huge pollinator presence, spiders, grubs, everything. And yet, the media continues to publish “big” articles that make it easy for politicians to cluck over without actually taking any actions. Meanwhile, this “local” story about a park that could actually make a major difference to the urban ecology is totally ignored. Our park is in an underserved neighborhood with a lot of NYCHA housing and not much power. As such, we are the future, but invisible. And meanwhile, these migrating warblers and pollinators will lose yet one more piece of friendly urban habitat. When a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? When close to a thousand trees will be cut by city bureaucrats and no one in power pays any attention, does it make a sound? Yes.”
We Need Trees, and Trees Need Us
By Margaret Renkl, Sept. 20, 2021, New York Times
Urban green space plays a less profound role than great forests in limiting temperature rise, it’s true, but it plays an outsize role in protecting communities from the worst effects of a changing climate. “Trees are, quite simply, the most effective strategy, technology, we have to guard against heat in cities,” Brian Stone Jr., a professor of environmental planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told the Times reporter Catrin Einhorn.
Fighting climate change starts at home.
By AMY CHESTER, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS |AUG 12, 2021
If we will not listen to the scientists, will we listen to our local communities?
Monday’s International Panel on Climate Change’s announcement that humans are unequivocally causing climate change was a sad reminder of how much more we have to do. It captured headlines and set off alarm bells.
Note: You would think the opinions expressed in this op-ed would clearly lead Amy Chester to vigorously oppose the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, especially because Chester led the team that developed the plan with community input and was dismayed when the project suddenly changed to a giant levee. She changed her mind and now strongly supports East Side Coastal Resiliency.
Vehicle Pollution Caused an Estimated 2,000 New Yorkers’ Deaths in One Year: Study
Liz Donovan, June 10, 2021, City Limits
More than 2,000 New Yorkers are estimated to have died prematurely in a single year from the effects of pollution from vehicle emissions—even before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published Tuesday. At least 1,400 of those deaths were in the New York City metropolitan area.
Good argument for covering the FDR with parkland–reduce emissions and reduce the high rates of asthma and other upper respiratory diseases in our neighborhood. And/Or turn the FDR into a public transit/biking corridor.
NYC’s waterfront is about to get a multibillion-dollar facelift
By Lois Weiss, June 10, 2021, NY Post
As dilapidated old industrial sites are sold to developers, more amazing places and innovative spaces are yet to set anchor along the city’s shoreline and turn it into one long green ribbon.
Apparently no developer, city official or reporter has paid attention to the rational way many cities and countries are now dealing with climate change—they stop building along the waterfront. Sea levels are rising, violent storms are coming with big storm surges, and yet developers build on.
Meanwhile Hunts Point, which is at sea level in the Bronx where most of the food for the city comes before being distributed to the boroughs, remains completely unprotected.
A 20-Foot Sea Wall? Miami Faces the Hard Choices of Climate Change.
A proposal to construct barriers for storm surge protection has forced South Floridians to reckon with the many environmental challenges they face.
By Patricia Mazzei, June 2, 2021, New York Times
…when local governments have asked the public how they would like to tackle climate change, residents by far prefer what is known as green infrastructure: layered coastal protection from a mix of dunes, sea grasses, coral reefs and mangroves, said Zelalem Adefris, vice president for policy and advocacy at Catalyst Miami, which works with low-income communities in the county.
“The Army Corps’s plan just looks so different,” she said. “It seemed to be really incongruous with the conversations that are being had locally.”
On a recent afternoon along the stretch of Brickell Bay Drive where a wall might go, Rachel Silverstein, executive director of Miami Waterkeeper, an environmental research and activist group, stood next to high-rises built right up to the water, which she called “the fundamental problem with Miami” because they leave the storm surge with nowhere to go.
(Ms. Silverstein is in the camp of people who favor more natural structural elements to combat storm surge, such as bolstering coral reefs that would also provide an ecological benefit to the bay.)
She pointed over the shimmering blue-green bay.
“Instead of seeing this beautiful water, you would see a gross wall,” she said.
Can Removing Highways Fix America’s Cities?
By Nadja Popovich, Josh Williams and Denise Lu, May 27, 2021, New York Times
And the big fear of removing a highway — terrible traffic — hasn’t materialized [In Rochester]…
If rebuilding cities is done right, highway removal projects could make life better for local residents as well as the planet…
How the trees in your local park help protect you from disease
The Conversation, May 5, 2021
“… it also matters which environments we spend time in. After collecting 135 samples, we found that the air in the wooded areas of an urban park near Adelaide in Australia contained more bacterial species but fewer potential human pathogens than nearby sports fields. Trees appear to filter the microbial communities in a given airspace, reducing the risk of exposure to microbes that cause disease. Because trees also seem to increase microbial diversity in the air, allowing more of them to grow in urban areas could provide an important health benefit by enhancing our immune systems.”
Miami Says It Can Adapt to Rising Seas. Not Everyone Is Convinced.
Officials have a new plan to manage rising water. Succeed or fail, it will very likely become a case study for other cities facing climate threats.
By Christopher Flavelle and Patricia Mazzei, March 2, 2021, NY Times
Miami is trying to hold back the rising sea. Using fill to raise the land is one answer. It’s not a good answer, however, according to this article. This story shows what not to do in East River Park.
NYC Parks Have Become ‘People’s Everything’ During Pandemic
By Kathy Willens • February 2, 2021, NBC NY
“The 19th century urban park was created largely as a public health measure,” said Thomas J. Campanella, a Brooklyn native who is the Parks Department’s historian-in-residence and an associate professor of urban landscape at Cornell University.
Campanella said that after major cholera outbreaks in the first half of the 1800s, the medical profession called for measures to “bring the country into the city, to create a rural landscape in the city.”
That, he said, was the origin of Central, Prospect and Fort Greene parks. In fact, Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed all three parks with Calvert Vaux, lost a child to cholera; he believed parks could act like urban lungs as “outlets for foul air and inlets for pure air.”
The Panic Attack of the Power Brokers
The city’s “permanent government” has always built its way out of crisis. But what if it can’t?
by Andrew Rice, Oct. 13, 2020, New York Magazine/Curbed
New York has been in the cauldron before…the urban catastrophe of the 1970s…The population shrank by around a million residents…
In inflation-adjusted dollars, the city’s total bond and pension debt reached nearly $100 billion in the mid-1970s, and banks would no longer lend it money.
Back then, the real-estate families organized to save the city’s government — and their own financial interests — by prepaying a huge chunk of property taxes, helping to stave off municipal bankruptcy. The governor appointed an investment banker named Felix Rohatyn to work out the city’s bond debt — it’s still being paid off — and created the Financial Control Board, which wrested authority over the budget from the mayor. Ineffective elected officials were supplanted by an elite group of corporate and civic leaders, a cadre the Village Voice journalist Jack Newfield referred to as the “Permanent Government.” …
At least in its own mythology, it is the Permanent Government that asserts leadership in trying times. After 9/11, power over the rebuilding of lower Manhattan was handed to another appointed authority, led by John Whitehead, a retired chairman of Goldman Sachs. During the financial crisis of 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg — the living embodiment of the Permanent Government — engineered a onetime suspension of term limits so he could manage the city through the crisis. In each case, New York emerged strong and prosperous.
The key to the city’s resiliency, the members of the Permanent Government argue, is its devotion above all to economic growth and real-estate development…
[and now, during the pandemic] “These guys have a stake in the gloom-and-doom department,” said Alicia Glen, the former top economic-development official in the de Blasio administration. “Because by talking about how terrible it’s going to be, it legitimizes and empowers their vision: superrich white people coming to save the city again. I mean, that is so obnoxious.”
Click the link above to read more about the city’s Permanent Government. It sure explains why we’re having so much trouble changing the environmentally dimwitted minds of so-called progressive City Council and State government leaders. They are beholden to real estate, construction and corporate interests, not to their constituents. Really, the whole City Council should just declare themselves to be the sellout Republicans they already are.
22 Benefits of Urban Street Trees
By Dan Burden, Senior Urban Designer
Glatting Jackson and Walkable Communities, Inc; May, 2006
Street trees and park trees convey these benefits including:
“Temperature differentials of 5-15 degrees are felt when walking under tree canopied streets.
“Trees in street proximity absorb 9 times more pollutants than more distant trees, converting harmful gasses back into oxygen and other useful and natural gasses.”
These Wetlands Helped Stop Flooding From Sandy. Now a BJ’s May Move In.
A group of Staten Island residents concerned about climate change is challenging the project.
bt Anne Barnard, New York Times, Oct. 28, 2020
State and city authorities agree, having approved plans for the membership-only warehouse club chain and an 800-car parking lot on the site, part of the Graniteville Swamp. The decision has set off new wrangling over how best to handle development on Staten Island’s diverse, working-class northern tip.
Hot City: Unplanned by Design
New York City is steadily sinking into the sea. . .Is there not a plan for that?
by Samuel Stein, Aug. 7, 2020, Verso Books
So yes, there are many climate plans for New York City, and this is just a small sampling of them. But this multiplicity of plans and pathways – sometimes complimentary and sometimes contradictory, managed chaotically at multiple governmental scales without regard for the scale of ecological systems – also justifies the opposite answer. In other words, if there are so many separate plans, and so many city, state, and federal agencies pursuing them simultaneously without adequate coordination, is there really a plan at all?
Let Red Hook Breathe Says NYCHA Residents
by Ariama Long, Kings County Politics, July 28, 2020
So familiar–Flood protection being constructed in Red Hook, and it’s a mess.
“Screaming to ‘Let Red Hook Breathe,’ residents and public housing advocates demanded more playgrounds, clean air and water, the replanting of the neighborhood’s trees, more lighting, air and soil testing because of the neighborhood’s industrial history with toxic land use, and a better emergency response and fire safety plan for the community. “
“The work that they’re doing has incredible ends, said Menchaca, about the value of the recovery construction projects, but the means to get there has dragged the community.:
Opinion: Now More Than Ever, NYC Needs Nature, and NYC’s Nature Needs Funding
By Sarah Charlop-Powers and Emily Nobel Maxwell, City Limits, June 2, 2020
New York City isn’t often celebrated for its nature. But for those of us who work at the Natural Areas Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy, we know the city best for its impressive parks system, expansive natural areas, and urban forest. These pieces of parkland make city living more enjoyable and bearable, especially during a global pandemic. And we’re astounded that the city is proposing to significantly disinvest in its parks, just when they are needed the most.
Hurricanes are getting stronger, more dangerous and forming earlier. Here’s how we can prepare.
By Natalie Peyronnin Snider, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), May 20, 2020
Experts are predicting this year to be a very active hurricane season, and even more concerning, researchers from NOAA and the University of Wisconsin at Madison just released a study that found climate change is causing more intense and dangerous hurricanes.
In response to added complexities from the coronavirus, the National Hurricane Center updated storm surge maps and forecast timing to help emergency managers make more informed decisions sooner.
This year government leaders and emergency preparedness officials have to prepare for the potential double whammy of a hurricane making landfall in the midst of a global pandemic.
New York just took a huge step toward funding lasting climate resilience
By Mark Rupp, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), May 14, 2020
The bond will invest in natural infrastructure and nature-based solutions to restore wetlands and seashores, which help reduce flooding and coastal erosion, and have the added benefits of beautifying landscapes, creating recreational and job opportunities, and stimulating the economy.
How Cities Plan to Keep Traffic Out When Lockdowns Lift
Extended bike lanes and wider sidewalks are among solutions to keep car traffic down as people continue to avoid public transit
By Theresa Machemer, SMITHSONIANMAG.COM, MAY 21, 2020
“The pandemic challenges us, but it also offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change course and repair the damage from a century of car-focused streets,” says Janette Sadik-Khan, a former New York City transportation commissioner, to the BBC. Sadik-Khan now works with cities creating transportation recovery programs. “Cities that seize this moment to reallocate space on their streets to make it easier for people to walk, bike and take public transport will prosper after this pandemic and not simply recover from it.”
Millions of Americans lack access to quality parks, report reveals
Low-income households and people of color in cities are least likely to live near decent green spaces
Nina Lakhani, The Guardian, May 20, 2020
“Even within cities, access to green spaces…is inequitable, with low-income households and people of color least likely to live close to parks with basic amenities like bathrooms, playgrounds and basketball courts.”
That’s not true for our low-and-moderate income neighborhood. We have the glorious East River Park. But we will have less than half of it, and it’ll be noisy and dusty from construction, if the city goes ahead with its plan to demolish the park for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project. Bad timing!
“For environmental justice activists, there is some hope. The unprecedented crisis could enhance appreciation for parks – and encourage a wave of local activism to fight for fair access.”
In the Shadows of America’s Smokestacks, Virus Is One More Deadly Risk
By Hiroko Tabuchi, May 17, 2020, New York Times
“People with two conditions tied to air pollution, inflammatory lung disease and coronary heart disease, face a higher risk for severe Covid-19, preliminary research has shown. Last month, work by Harvard specialists found that coronavirus patients in areas with historically heavy air pollution are more likely to die than patients elsewhere.”
NYC’s New Plan Would Let Massive Sewage Overflows Continue
February 24, 2020 Larry Levine, NRDC
“On any given day in 2019, there was nearly a 50 percent chance that sewage pollution made it unsafe to touch the water somewhere in New York City. In fact, every year, around 20 billion gallons of untreated raw sewage and polluted runoff bypass the city’s sewage treatment plants and get dumped into the water along the shoreline in all five boroughs.”
The $1.45 billion ESCR flood control plan for East River Park will do nothing to alleviate the problem. The massive sewer project will just hold the untreated storm surge water in parallel conveyances and then dump the sewage into the river. Another example of the city officials saying they care about the environment and then spending a lot of money to keep it screwed up.
Cities Fighting Climate Woes Hasten ‘Green Gentrification’
Seawalls, parks, and elevated buildings can protect against rising tides. But they can also push the price of housing up, and longtime residents out.
Adam Rogers, Feb. 2020, Wired
“…when poorer neighborhoods get water-absorbing green space, storm-surge-proof seawalls, and elevated buildings, all of a sudden they aren’t so poor anymore. The people who lived there—who would’ve borne the brunt of whatever disasters a changing climate will bring—get pushed out in favor of new housing built to sell at or above market rates to people with enough money to buy not just safety but a beautiful new waterfront. In real estate lingo, “adaptations” are also “amenities,” and the pursuit of those amenities ends up displacing poor people and people of color. The phenomenon has a name: green gentrification.”
NYC’s coastline could be underwater by 2100. Why are we still building there?
How New York City can incorporate managed retreat into its plans to fight climate changeBy Emily Nonko Jan 2, 2020, Curbed
“Now, there’s a desire to utilize this highly-valued land and not prohibit development,” Liz Koslov, [assistant professor of Urban Planning and Environment and Sustainability at UCLA], explains. “Then for the city to protect people already living in places like the lower East Side, what pays for protective infrastructure and adaptation is more development.”
Yeah, that’s what we’re afraid of.
Benefits of Trees
Erv Evans, North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Trees of Strength (Facts below come from a no-longer-working web page by the same author–the link here provides similar information.)
Many wonderful facts about what trees do for the environment, including:
- A tree can be a natural air conditioner. The evaporation from a single tree can produce the cooling effect of 10 room size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
- A well placed tree can reduce noise by as much as 40 percent.
- Trees help settle out and trap dust, pollen and smoke from the air. The dust level in the air can be as much as 75 percent lower on the sheltered side of the tree compared to the windward side.
- Trees absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, from the air and release oxygen.
How Hurricane Sandy flooded New York back to its 17th century shape as it inundated 400 years of reclaimed land
By SNEJANA FARBEROV, Daily Mail, 15 June 2013
MAYOR SUPPORTS DEVELOPMENT POISED TO DEVASTATE BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN
by Ben Verde, Feb. 10, 2020, Brooklyn Paper,
“Mayor Bill de Blasio undermined the expert opinion of professional green thumbs, architects, and executives at Brooklyn Botanic Garden during an appearance on the Brian Lehrer show on Feb. 7, when he suggested that building a massive residential complex a stones throw away from the beloved horticultural museum would cause no serious injury to its collection of rare and exotic plants. “
A Storm-Resilient Park in Queens
by Karim Doumar, Oct. 24, 2018, City Lab
By replacing Long Island City’s industrial waterfront with native grasses, Hunters Point South Park stands ready to withstand any storm surge.
Seaport Section Remains Big Question Mark in NYC’s Flood Control Plans
By Neil deMause, City Limits, Nov. 6, 2019
The story includes plans for Battery Park. See, New York know how to build a resilient park: “To protect from storm surge, a raised bike path will be built in the inland part of the park, allowing most of the park to remain closer to river level, since a park can survive storm-surge flooding mostly unscathed.”
On Your Bike, Watch Out for the Air
By Richard Schiffman, New York Times, 2017
“…bicyclists in lanes that are separated from active traffic by a row of parked cars breathe in a lot less pollution than those who use bike lanes adjacent to the traffic.”
And surely much less pollution when on the promenade at East River Park, a major bike commuting route that we will lose if the city tears down the park next year.
The rain in Spain: how an ancient Arabic technique saves Alicante from floods
“To protect itself from destructive flooding, the city has built a park designed to store and recycle rainwater” The Guardian
Now that’s resiliency. €3.7 million to build and €50,000 a year to maintain. C’mon New York, get creative.
Summer in the City Is Hot, but Some Neighborhoods Suffer More
By Nadja Popovich and Christopher Flavelle, New York Times, Aug 9, 2019
“As the United States suffers through a summer of record-breaking heat, new research shows that temperatures on a scorching summer day can vary as much as 20 degrees across different parts of the same city, with poor or minority neighborhoods often bearing the brunt of that heat.”
“Buildings and paved surfaces – like major roadways, uncovered parking lots and industrial zones – amplified heat, while large parks and other green spaces cooled down the surrounding areas.”
Think about the temperatures for the East Village and Lower East Side will be when 981 mature trees and all the greenery in East River Park are destroyed next year!
Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis
The Guardian, July 2019
Planting billions of trees is a good, inexpensive way to stall climate change. Instead of cutting down the 980 matures trees in East River Park, New York should be thinking of ways to preserve most of the park and plant more trees.
How Much Nature Is Enough? 120 Minutes a Week, Doctors Say
New York Times, June 13, 2019, By Knvul Sheikh
“It’s a medical fact: Spending time outdoors, especially in green spaces, is good for you.”
The Healing Power of Gardens
by Oliver Sacks, the late great neurologist and writer, New York Times Magazine, April 18, 2019
“The role that nature plays in health and healing becomes even more critical for people working long days in windowless offices, for those living in city neighborhoods without access to green spaces, for children in city schools or for those in institutional settings such as nursing homes. The effects of nature’s qualities on health are not only spiritual and emotional but physical and neurological.”
Friends of Fort Greene Park Tree Page
Here are links to many articles about the benefits of trees, urban heat island effect, the effect of trees on asthma and upper respiratory diseases, and more. This is a great organization fighting against the city’s plan to remove trees and grass to install a concrete plaza and saplings in their park. Sound familiar? It is. Here is their home page.
Seven Years After Sandy, Slow Moves Toward Resiliency in High-Risk Nabes
José Cardoso, City Limits, July 1, 2019
(City Council member Mark) Treyger believes vulnerable neighborhoods in the outer boroughs have not received as much attention as they should. “The city has invested more of its own resources in Manhattan than it has in other parts of the city,” he said. “The city of New York is investing hundreds of millions of dollars of its capital budget for Manhattan,” he says. “In Southern Brooklyn, they are giving us some resources but nothing on the grand scale of comprehensive approaches that you’ve seen in other parts of the city.”
Rebuilt Wetlands Can Protect Shorelines Better Than Walls
by Rowan Jacobsen, Scientific American, 2019
“Fortified wetlands can protect shorelines better than hard structures.” This needs to be taken into account for ESCR flood protection. The current plan is a hard structure.
Dan Tishman is one of the construction industry’s leading men, but his close ties to the governor have sparked pushback from critics
May 2017, The Real Deal
All about Tishman construction, now owned by AECOM, which is reconstructing East River Park, including a nonjudgmental description of “pay to play” ties with Cuomo and Albany.
Follow AECOM, the construction company rebuilding East River Park
Proximity to Urban Parks and Mental Health
Roland Sturm and Deborah Cohen, J Mental Health Policy Econ, 2014
Mental health is significantly related to residential distance from parks, with the highest MHI-5 scores among residents within short walking distance from the park (400m) and decreasing significantly over the next distances. The number of visits and physical activity minutes are significantly and independently related to distance, although controlling for them does not reduce the association between distance and mental health