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“MUSIC AND RUNNING, IT’S SOMETHING ANYONE CAN DO”
INTERVIEW WITH MATT SWEENEY.
PHOTOGRAPHY AND INTERVIEW BY BEN RAYNER
WORDS BY ANDY WATERMAN, May 13, 2021, TRACKSMITH
“East River is where I started,” Matt Sweeney told Tracksmith during our interview. “There’s something about running next to water which is great. I don’t know if I’d have picked up running if that park wasn’t there – it’s so inviting. There’s nothing daunting about it, there’s every kind of person running there.”
“It’s truly beautiful beyond words,” says Sweeney. “It’s essential to so many people’s well-being – it’s essential to my well-being – and it’s under threat right now from developers. They’re claiming it’s for flood protection, but it’s completely not for flood protection. They want to destroy the park and build condos there in 10 years.”
How can NYC build back faster?
New York City Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Jamie Torres-Springer talks COVID-19 capital project delivery, East Side Coastal Resiliency and borough-based jails.
By ANNIE MCDONOUGH, MAY 12, 2021, City & State
We’re very proud and excited about this project. It’s going to protect 110,000 Lower East Side residents, 28,000 of whom live in New York City Housing Authority apartments. And not only protect them from flooding in the future, like (Superstorm) Sandy, but also vastly improve open space and recreational opportunities.
This and much more misinformation from the DDC Commissioner. Please read and comment.
The Destroy-It-to-Save-It Plan for East River Park
New York’s first climate adaptation battle is here.
By Keith Gessen, May 11, 2021, New York Magazine/NYMag/Curbed
Eileen Myles, the poet and novelist and East Village literary figure, winner of a Guggenheim and author of the cult classic Chelsea Girls, first heard the city was planning to demolish East River Park last September. The reason given was flood protection. The area had been devastated by Hurricane Sandy. But Myles was incredulous and got in touch with a group of activists working to save the park. Myles had never really liked activism — “I never have the impulse to pick up a bullhorn in front of a crowd, and the only thing I hate more is seeing other people do it,” they told me — but this was different. This was their park.
Foes file legal appeal vs. East River Park resiliency project
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON, MAY 1, 2021, THE VILLAGE SUN
Opponents of the East Side Coastal Resiliency plan have filed an appeal in their lawsuit to block the embattled mega-project….
“I hope that the appeal is successful,” [State Senator Brad] Hoylman said. The judge got it wrong. I think it’s a question of legislative prerogative.”
From an Urban Farm to a Wetland, This Two Trees Development Is Beyond Greenwashed
By Willy Blackmore, Curbed, April 28, 2021
Rather than building new flood barriers, like the one planned for East River Park on the Lower East Side, reestablishing this kind of spongelike native landscape is really the solution to the question of how New York City might withstand the rising waters of climate change.
East Side Coastal Resiliency Project Construction to Begin
By Patrick McNeill, Cityland, Center for New York City Law, New York Law School
he ambitious project will help to protect the East Side community and provide new improvements to many parks. On April 15, 2021, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced major construction on the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. The $1.45 billion project will extend flooding protections and improve open spaces. Neighborhoods that were heavily affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 will now be home to one of New York City’s most ambitious infrastructure and climate justice projects. For CityLand’s prior coverage of the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, click here.
NYC Residents Fight Flood Control Plan That Gets Rid Of Park
WBGO By Scott Pringle, April 25, 2021, 42 seconds
“It will be completely surrounded by pile driving, heavy construction, dust, particulate matter from a million tons of fill. This is not the solution for flood control.”
Earth Day action: Elizabeth Street Garden joins coalition to fight for NYC green spaces
By Dean Moses, April 22, 2021, AMNY
The small one-acre paradise located between Prince and Spring Streets has been fighting its own battle to maintain its lush, foliage amidst a bustling city. Although their legal struggle is still ongoing, Elizabeth Street Garden is teaming up with East River Park Action and a litany of fellow groups through a citywide initiative in order to raise awareness for comparable parks and green zones that are in danger of being redeveloped.
Elected Officials Ignore Mom’s Plea to Stop the City from Destroying East River Park [OP-ED]
by Kirsten Theodos, April 22, 2021, Bowery Boogie
There is a crisis right now in New York City. The limited green space we have is under attack, and even a global climate crisis and pandemic won’t stop the City from destroying it. I live near East River Park, the only meaningful green space on the Lower East Side, a vital park thronging with people seeking fresh air, both day and night.
Yet, the City is set to demolish it very soon.
Manhattan coastal protection plan under cloud of controversy
By Stacey Delikat, April 21, Manhattan, FOX 5 NY
NEW YORK – In 2012, Hurricane Sandy left the Lower East Side underwater and in the dark. Now nearly a decade later, New York City has finally started work on a coastal resiliency plan to protect lower Manhattan from future flooding. But the plan is swirling in its own storm of controversy.
“We think that for $1.45 billion, there has to be a way to achieve flood protection without destroying the entire East River Park,” said Fannie Ip, one of the founding members of the group East River Park Action, which opposes the city’s plan.
“We Need Something Better”: Lower East Siders Urge City To Halt East River Park Resiliency Project
BY JAKE OFFENHARTZ, GOTHAMIST, APRIL 19, 2021
Nearly every weekend for four decades, Raphael Munoz has been lugging heavy speakers across FDR Drive and into East River Park. When it’s warm, the 57-year-old, who grew up in the nearby Baruch Houses, can be found near the amphitheater, laying down the soundtrack for picnics, birthday parties, and barbecues that stretch late into the night.
But with the city set to move forward on its East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) plan, Munoz’s longtime open-air venue will soon be buried under 8 to 10 feet of landfill. On Sunday, he joined hundreds of other Lower East Side and East Village residents in demanding the city halt the $1.45 billion project.
“There is climate change. That’s a fact. So we have to do something about it,” Munoz told Gothamist. “But I don’t know why they have to take away the park.”
Protesters march against plans to demolish East River Park
BY AMY YENSI, MANHATTAN, NY1, April 18, 2021
“We had a plan that the community worked on for years, planing everything, going over structures and then the mayor unilaterally decided, without community input, that the way to save the park was to destroy it for at least 5 years,” said resident Judy Capel.
‘Save our park!’ Hundreds of protesters — no politicians — march against East Side resiliency plan
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON, The Village Sun, APRIL 19, 2021
As protesters streamed across the E. Sixth St. bridge over the F.D.R. Drive into East River Park on Sunday, one of them had a telling insight. “No elected officials,” observed Mark Hannay, a healthcare advocate and East Village resident. “Normally, all the elected officials would be here for something like this.”
Hundreds march in opposition of the East Side Coastal Resiliency project
By Dean Moses, amNY, April 18, 2021
Emily Johnson is of the Yup’ik Nation, and is an avid water and land activist. She is a strong believer that climate justice is racial justice and is one of hundreds of Lower East Side residents against the ESCR project. She says that this plan is only a temporary fix that will destroy the trees in the East River Park and prevent individuals from freely accessing the open space.
“We demand the city stop the demolition of East River Park. We demand a comprehensive outside environmental review of their plan. We demand immediate interim flood control; we demand a truly resilient plan. This city, Mayor de Blasio, our Council Member Carlina Rivera, they want us to accept their environmentally racist plan,” Johnson said, adding, “The city wants us to accept a $1.5 billion plan that is only temporary, it is not resilient, destroys our park, and for years makes our community vulnerable.”
Great pictures, too!
City Officially Breaks Ground on $1.45B East Side Coastal Resiliency Project
by Elie, Bowery Boogie, April 16, 2021
After an initial delay, the contested $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency Project is set to break ground in the coming days. All against a backdrop of legal filings and vociferous community opposition.
“Building a recovery for all of us means fighting climate change and investing in resilient communities,” Mayor de Blasio stated in a press release yesterday. “This project will keep generations of New Yorkers safe from extreme weather, coastal storm, and rising sea levels – all while preserving and improving some of our city’s most iconic open spaces.”
[There are so many inaccuracies in that quote, I don’t know where to start. More to come.]
City officially launches $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency project
By Kevin Duggan, amNY, April 15, 2021
Later this year, work will start to raise the almost 46-acre East River Park with 8-10 feet of fill, along with an upgraded amphitheater, ballfields, tennis courts, soccer and multi-use turf fields, track and field, basketball courts, playground, comfort stations and picnic and barbecue areas.
City Kicks Off East River Resiliency Project, as Local Activists Step Up Protests
The Lo-Down, April 15, 2021
In a press release dated April 15, the mayor stated, “This project will keep generations of New Yorkers safe from extreme weather, coastal storm, and rising sea levels – all while preserving and improving some of our city’s most iconic open spaces.” Almost a decade after Hurricane Sandy, construction is beginning on a 2.4 mile stretch of the East River from East 25th Street to Montgomery Street. It involves demolishing and then rebuilding East River Park at a higher level and creating a system of floodwalls, berms and movable floodgates.
A Recovery For All of Us: Mayor de Blasio Celebrates Construction for East Side Coastal Resiliency Project
Office of NYC Mayor, April 15, 2021
Ambitious climate adaptation effort will protect a diverse East Side community, including over 28,000 NYCHA residents
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced the beginning of major construction activities on East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR), a $1.45 billion climate resiliency project that will extend flood protections and improve open spaces for more than 110,000 New Yorkers – including 28,000 public housing residents – on Manhattan’s East Side, from East 25th Street south to Montgomery Street. These neighborhoods, which were pummeled by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, will now be home to one of the most ambitious infrastructure and climate justice projects in New York City history.
East River Park Advocates Demand to See Resiliency Planning Documents
The Broadsheet, APRIL 13, 2021 BY ROBERT SIMKO
Joining East River Park Action as a co-plaintiff in the suit is Christopher Marte, a candidate for the City Council seat that will be vacated by Margaret Chin later this year, as a result of term limits. Mr. Marte observes that, “if Hurricane Sandy were to happen again tomorrow, almost all of District 1 would be just as vulnerable as it was in 2012. We are living in a state of climate emergency and must take immediate action to protect our City. But the urgency of climate change is no excuse for decisions to be made behind closed doors with private interests leading the conversation.”
He continues, “the only way the City is going to be able to meet standards and deadlines is if the public is able to hold them accountable, and if the impacted communities are treated as the stakeholders that they are. It is their homes that will be underwater, it is their park that will be destroyed—not Mayor de Blasio’s.”
East River Park activists sift through newly revealed info in resiliency reports
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON, The Village Sun, APRIL 12, 2021
Three hundred million dollars in “alienation mitigation” funds.
That’s just one of the things that the city was hiding behind its heavy redactions of key documents concerning the East Side Coastal Resiliency project.
‘Save East River Park March’ To Be Held April 18
The march is organized by Eileen Myles, Emily Johnson and Harriet Hirshorn of the East River Park ACTION group.
Patch, April 12, 2021
We are inviting you to join us in this urgent exercise of free speech and outlet for the immense frustration we feel at the betrayal by public servants i.e., our mayor, our City Council Member and the entire City Council, our Community Boards, City Planning Commission, the Parks Department and all who are engaged in supporting the farcical, greedy and short-sighted version of flood control known as East Side Coastal Resiliency.
Opponents Of City’s East River Park Resiliency Project Sue For More Transparency
BY SYDNEY PEREIR, APRIL 11, 2021, Gothamist
(Jonathan) Lefkowitz said that the value engineering study may also reveal information for another lawsuit the group filed last year, which argued the project needed state legislature approval to rebuild the park. That lawsuit was dismissed last summer.
“They’re basically cutting off lots of people from a park and providing no alternatives, no viable alternatives,” Lefkowitz said.
March to save East River Park
Village Sun, April 11, 2021
Opponents of the $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency plan will hold a protest march through the neighborhood on Sun., April 18.
“Save our park! Save our lungs! Save our neighborhood!” a press release for the event exhorts.
Opponents Of City’s East River Park Resiliency Project Sue For More Transparency
By NYPAA News on April 11, 2021
A group of East Village residents opposed to a flood protection plan involving rebuilding the East River Park has sued City Hall—again—to try and halt the project.
Activist group sues Mayor de Blasio, city over East River Park report
by Dean Balsamini, NY Post, April 10, 2021
Environmental activists are suing Mayor de Blasio and the city for allegedly withholding vital information on the $1 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency project….
“We seek alternatives that will preserve much of our East River Park and provide flood protection. Some of those alternatives are outlined in the unredacted sections of the study. Now we need to see all of the report,” Arnow added.
Interview with Tommy Loeb of East River Park Action
by Paul DiRienzo, WBAI, April 8, 2021, East River Park Section starts at 16:53
Talking about the redacted Value Engineering Study East River Park Action uncovered and what the city seemed to be hiding be denying the report even existed.
Mystery solved, kind of: Unredacted East River Park resiliency study emerges
by Dean Moses, AMNY, April 7, 2021
The East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) “Value Engineering Study” mystery has been unveiled and majority of the redactions have been removed, but the reasons for this missing and reappearing study are still vague.
City tries again with release of a Value Engineering Study for East River Park
EVGrieve, April 7, 2020
Five days after East River Park Action (ERPA) filed a lawsuit against Mayor de Blasio and the Office of Management and Budget for the entire Value Engineering Study without redactions … the city released a (mostly) unredacted version yesterday.
And check out the lively comments section
Rivera: More info coming from redacted resiliency report
BY THE VILLAGE SUN, APRIL 7, 2021
[Carlina] Rivera, in her tweet, said the city’s Department of Design and Construction agreed to release the additional information as a result of advocacy by her and the East Side Coastal Resiliency Community Advisory Group.
But members of East River Park ACTION countered that it was their lawsuit, plus a letter by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to the mayor, advocacy by the Grand Street Democrats political club and also coverage by local media outlets, including The Village Sun, that compelled D.D.C. to cough up more of the heavily redacted study.
Activists File Lawsuit Against City Over Redacted East River Park Report
By Elie, April 6, 2021, Bowery Boogie
East River Park ACTION, the Grand Street Democrats club and a gaggle of political candidates and local activists filed a lawsuit on Friday (April 2) against Mayor de Blasio, demanding that the redacted passages of the Value Engineering Study for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project be unhidden and made public. The city’s Office of Management and Budget is also named by attorney Jack Lester.
Lawsuit filed over East Side Coastal Resiliency report redactions
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON, APRIL 5, 2021, THE VILLAGE SUN
East River Park ACTION, the Grand Street Democrats club and a lineup of political candidates and local activists are plaintiffs in an Article 78 lawsuit against Mayor de Blasio, demanding that the redacted sections of the Value Engineering Study for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project be made public.
Exclusive: Council Member Justin Brannan joins the fight to reveal redacted “ESCR Value Engineering Study”
by Dean Moses, April 4, 2021, AMNY
Council Member Justin Brannan joins the search for the truth behind the redacted EastSide Coastal Resiliency “Value Engineering Study.”
The ghost hunt continues for the mysteriously missing and then reappearing East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) “Value Engineering Study,” which is so heavily redacted that Council Member Brannan, the Chair of the Committee on Resiliency and Waterfronts, joins the quest in pushing Mayor Bill de Blasio to have this report fully released to the public.
City Council Chair on Resiliency Committee Demands Non-Redacted East River Park Resiliency Report
by Elie, April 5, 2021, Bowery Boogie
…the Chair of the City Council Committee on Resiliency and Waterfronts, Justin Brannan, is getting involved. Demanding that the city release an non-redacted version.
“As you know a heavily-redacted, virtually unreadable copy was released due to FOIL requests,” Brannan wrote in a letter sent to Mayor de Blasio today. “This does not necessarily inspire confidence for those who are merely seeking transparency and information.”
“This is a significant project that will fundamentally change the area and require hundreds of millions of dollars of investment from the city,” he continued.
Residents Fight to Stop Plan that will level Park for years
Angi Gonzalez, April 1, 2021, NY1
Construction to Raise East River Park Above Rising Waters Starts This Spring
by ARI EPHRAIM FELDMAN, NY1, March 29, 2021
Fannie Ip is concerned that by hiding much of the [Value Engineering] report, the city is hiding possible alternatives for East River Park that could prevent flooding without destroying the park as it is.
“That’s how they’ve been dividing us: if you want flood protection, this is it,” Ip said.”But that’s false. This is not the only plan.”
by Marcella Durand, March 21, 2021, Blackear Institute
The more I learn about the history of this particular sliver of parkland—over which the city is fighting with local inhabitants of the Lower East Side, including residents of New York City Housing Authority buildings, artists, poets, city planners, composters, joggers, bicyclists, yoga practitioners, drummers, birders, fishers, foragers, indigenous and senior people—the more I realize how the U.S., for all its illusory surface variations, is still basically stuck in the same moral and philosophical place it was in its first moment of acquisition, exploitation and colonization.
Watching From a Distance: What Gives a Virtual Dance Life?
By Gia Kourlas, March 24, 2021, New York Times
This film, in essence, preserves not only a dance but a place — the amphitheater, whose proposed demolition is a part of plans to elevate and reconstruct East River Park to protect it from damaging coastal storms. (The plan is not universally popular.) It also represents a moment in time when, despite the pandemic, a choreographer and her dancers, seven in all, rehearsed in a park and performed for an invited crowd and anyone else who felt like stopping by.
Beyond the open arch of the amphitheater are joggers, cyclists, walkers; past that is the rippling water of the East River. Occasionally cameras pan back to see a casual crowd watching, but as the dancers pair up and abruptly go their own way moving with an internal urgently, it’s as if the city is their audience.
Allie Ryan running for Council District 2 as an independent
by Lincoln Anderson, March 24, 2021, The Village Sun
One of Allie Ryan’s chief concerns right now, and one of her main reasons for running for office, is East River Park and the East Side Coastal Resiliency plan. Land use and quality-of-life, as she sees it, are the two key issues affecting city residents, and they are converging in the embattled East River Park plan and the fight against it.
Report: Lowest Bids for East River Park are $73 million over budget
EV Grieve, March 17, 2021
The lowest construction bids for the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR) will cost $73 million more than the $1.45 billion budget — and they’ve barely started, according to the latest mailing from advocacy group East River Park Action.
WHY WRECK A PARK?
East River Park is New York City at its finest. We cannot let it be destroyed.
Matt Sweeney, March 15, 2021, Medium
About eight years ago my life as a musician in New York changed radically for the better when I started running in East River Park.
East River Park Advocates Appeal Redacted Resiliency Engineering Report
March 8, 2021, Bowery Boogie
East River Park advocates announced an appeal of the heavily redacted Value Engineering Study, the report Mayor de Blasio cited in 2018 when announcing the sudden change in the flood control plan.
East River Park ACTION attorney Jack Lester sent an appeal on March 2 to the City’s Department of Design and Construction, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Parks Department to view the entire Value Engineering Study, not the mostly blacked-out version released last month.
East Side Coastal Resiliency report mysteriously appears with unreadable redactions
by Dean Moses, March 2, 2021, AMNY
…according to a tweet by Kirsten Theodos, who shared the report over social media, the majority of its pages are blacked out, making it unreadable.
“The new City plan will destroy 57 acres of coastal parkland, fell nearly 1000 mature trees and eliminate the only large outdoor greenspace residents on LES for recreation and wellness. The City plan is twice as expensive, provides no interim flood protection during the many years of construction, & requires unprecedented ecological destruction of the largest municipal park on the LES impacting the residents of the predominantly low income, BIPOC neighborhood,” Theodos wrote in a tweet.
East River Community Group Gets Action on (heavily redacted) value engineering study
EV Grieve, March 2, 2021
…East River Park has many outstanding questions for the city to answer. “Our many ACTIONeers have pored over the plans and have found fatal flaws that will damage our neighborhood’s well being for years to come. We must have transparency, accountability, and community involvement in a revised plan.”
City Finally Releases East River Park Resilience Study, but with Heavy Redactions
March 1, 2021, Bowery Boogie
It took three years and the accompanying community pressure for the city to finally release a critical report on the East River Park reconstruction plan, which it initially claimed did not exist.
The Value Engineering Study, as it’s called, was the report Mayor de Blasio cited in 2018 when announcing the sudden change in the flood control plan for East River Park. This new resiliency approach – the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project – roughly doubles the cost and buries the entire park in eight feet of fill.
NYC finally releases East River Park report, with heavy redactions
By Melissa Klein, February 27, 2021, New York POST
”The lack of transparency in this $1.45 billion public project is unconscionable. These redactions are just a pattern of disdain that the city has shown toward our community,” said Tommy Loeb, a member of East River Park Action.
The city used the value engineering report as the basis for ditching another flood protection plan that would not have decimated the 57-acre park. The report says the plan to raise the level of the park would save $319 million.
Sierra Club demands hearing, transparency on East Side Coastal Resiliency plan
FEBRUARY 22, 2021 BY THE VILLAGE SUN
Following the city’s release of a heavily redacted report, the Sierra Club of New York City is urging the City Council to hold a hearing ASAP on the embattled East Side Coastal Resiliency plan.
EXCLUSIVE: Erin Hussein primarying Carlina Rivera in District 2
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON, FEBRUARY 14, 2021, THE VILLAGE SUN
The top issue where this is being felt is East River Park, in her view. The city’s East Side Coastal Resiliency plan, which Rivera staunchly supports, is facing resistance from a broad group of environmental activists, block associations and individuals, who have sued to stop the project.
L.E.S. Dem club snubs Rivera for ‘ignoring concerns’ on East River Park plan
Claiming that Carlina Rivera has “ignored” community concerns about the city’s draconian plans for East River Park, the Grand Street Democrats declined to endorse her for reelection.
The stunning snub came Monday night as the Lower East Side club was considering an endorsement for City Council District 2. Currently, Rivera is running unopposed in the June 22 Democratic primary.
Mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan: De Blasio botched East Side resiliency plan
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON, FEBRUARY 7, 2021, THE VILLAGE SUN
A candidate for New York City mayor says the fiasco of the East Side Coastal Resiliency plan is exactly why he is running.
Governors Island rezoning is wrong on so many levels
BY ALLIE RYAN, The Village Sun, JANUARY 25, 2021
This plan highlights the hypocrisy of the East Side Coastal Resiliency project and the impending demolition of East River Park. East River Park, with 60 acres, in a floodplain, will be raised 8 to 10 feet to withstand floodwaters for 100 years in the future. Yet the proposed climate-change center’s two sites are in floodplains on Governors Island.
Opponents of NYC’s $1.4B East River Park project demand new review
by Melissa Klein, NY Post, Jan. 16, 2021
New York City’s bold plan to bury East River Park is based on a phantom study that doesn’t exist, opponents of the $1.4 billion project charge.
Interview on nonexistent Value Engineering Report
Paul diRienzo, WBAI, Jan. 13, 2021 (Listen from minute 12:24-17:07)
Emily Johnson of East River Park Action speaks about the news of the nonexistent Value Engineering report that the city says is the reason East River Park must be demolished. “Why is this East Side Coastal Resiliency plan being pushed through…our elected officials are lying to us, to community members who live here and will be deeply affected, and are also lying to other elected officials.”
(Clarification: Johnson is from the Yup’ik Nation in Alaska, not New York as she was introduced. The original people in Manhattan were the Lenape. Johnson communicates with descendants of the Lenape diaspora and has received support for the preservation of East River Park .)
Advocacy group: The city’s value engineering study for East River Park does not exist
January 11, 2021, EV Grieve
A value engineering study, an oft-cited factor behind the city’s change of plans in September 2018 to bury/elevate East River Park by eight feet as part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, does not exist, according to advocacy group East River Park Action.