Dr. Amy Berkov
City College of New York, Dept. Biology
To stop the total destruction of the East River Park in just a few months, we have to travel a long and winding road through the bureaucracy. Here’s what you need to know to fight City Hall:
When a development project—like the flood control plan for East River Park—is likely to damage the environment and/or the communities living in the surrounding area, it must go through environmental review. The review evaluates temporary and permanent harm. It also gives alternative development plans. More on that later.
The first draft of review, the DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) for East River Park is out. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) will include the draft, proposed improvements to the plan, and a summary of public comments with responses.
This is where we come in.
Make sure that your voice is heard! Testify!
The public hearing (with the New York City Planning Commission, the NY Office of Management and Budget, and Parks) will be held
July 31, 10 am
120 Broadway, Concourse Level
Come at 9:30 and be part of a protest outside. We’ll have signs and ribbons and make some noise. Officials do change their minds when enough people object together. Then go in and tell the city what you think.
In most public hearings, you have two minutes to speak… so be prepared!
Written comments can be submitted:
by August 30
Snail Mail: NYC Office of Management and Budget, c/o Calvin Johnson, Assistant Director CDBG-DR, 255 Greenwich Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10007, or
New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, c/o Colleen Alderson, Chief, Parklands and Real Estate, The Arsenal, Central Park, 830 Fifth Avenue, Room 401, New York, NY 10065
What should I say?
There are so many ways this plan will affect us. You have many choices. You don’t have to be an expert. Talk about what moves you.
Subjects covered in the ESCR DEIS include:
- land use and zoning,
- socioeconomic conditions,
- open space,
- historic and cultural resources,
- urban design and visual character,
- natural resources,
- hazardous materials,
- water and sewer infrastructure,
- neighborhood character, and
- environmental justice.
You can speak on these issues as you see them, but if you want to study further, many of these subjects are covered in an initial chapter (Ch. 5.1-5.11), during construction (Ch. 6), and with indirect or cumulative effects (Ch. 7). In some cases, there are relevant—and very informative!—appendices.
But Wait! There’s More!
All subjects are discussed in relation to five project scenarios, or alternatives:
- Alternative 1 is no-action (what we might expect with no flood protection plan).
- Alternative 2 is a baseline plan, with flood protection (floodwall) on the west side of the East River Park, next to the FDR.
- Alternative 3 is an enhanced park and access plan, with flood protection (walls and berms) also next to the FDR.
- Alternative 4, the City’s “Preferred Alternative” plan, turns the entire shoreline into a flood barrier by bulldozing the park, adding 8-10 feet of fill, and building a new park on top.
- Alternative 5 is a modification of the preferred plan, relevant to the section North of 14th Street.
The DEIS is a long and painful document. The sections that I read, on natural resources, are inaccurate and full of unjustified assumptions about the temporary nature of negative impacts. The DEIS is written to emphasize the pros of the City’s Preferred Alternative 4, and glosses over its cons. For a summary of the City’s perspective on the merits of Alternative 4, in relation to Alternative 3, see: https://www1.nyc.gov/html/mancb3/downloads/waterfront/ESCR%20-%20Comparison%20Chart.pdf
The City’s preferred plan for ESCR, Alternative 4, requires an unprecedented destruction of living organisms. Alternatives 2 and 3 offer the community exactly the same flood protection—but differ dramatically in terms of destruction and cost!
- Baseline Alternative 2 requires the removal of 245 trees,
- Alternative 3 removes 776 trees
- Preferred Alternative 4 removes 981 trees
- Alternatives 2 and 3 lose 652 square feet of wetlands
- Preferred Alternative 4 destroys (and replaces) >24,000 square feet
- Alternative 2 comes with a relatively modest price-tag ($445 million),
- Alternatives 3 and 4 come in on the high end ($1.2 billion and 1.45 billion, respectively)
Beloved park features that are preserved in both Alternatives 2 and 3 include The Lower East Side Ecology Center with and its compost yard (with new wetlands), Seal Plaza, the Amphitheater, the fitness area, the current embayments with bridges, and the Labyrinth. Alternatives 2 and 3 maintain the floodplain and allow for future wetlands expansion, consistent with state goals to offset carbon emissions. The City’s baseline Alternative 2 represents a saving of over $1 billion; this could pay for a lot of genuine park improvements!
If you have the wherewithal and are ready to dig into the DEIS, you can view and download any sections of interest at:
If you don’t want to take on the official document, you should still let the City know how you feel about their plans!