It gave us flood protection and didn’t kill our park
The Big U was part of a larger plan to protect Lower Manhattan, and our community helped develop it over four years. The city trashed it in late 2018. Now the city is going to trash our entire park and close it for years. Here was the plan the community approved for our park:
“In East River Park, an undulating berm at the location of the service road to the FDR Drive provides flood protection. The berm is shaped so that the existing sports fields can be maintained. Generous landscaped bridges will connect the East River Park to the community. The flood protection continues to Montgomery Street by fortifying the new Pier 42 Park, where a deployable will help maintain the on-ramp to the FDR Drive.”
“The flood protection in East River Park protects $780,000,000 in potential damages (NPV). With a design height of 15ft, the system has a benefit-cost ratio of 2.08.”
“Green infrastructure in all three compartments contributes to both flood protection and social amenities in the Big U. Climate-change models predict more frequent heavy-precipitation events, leading to even more street flooding and combined sewer overflows (CSO) than we have already experienced in our largely water- impervious city. The urban heat island effect will be exacerbated by longer heat waves. The Big U’s native species bio-swales, rain gardens, and street plantings will absorb and clean stormwater, cool the city, reduce air pollution, store carbon, buffer noise, enhance recreational activities, improve mental health, and provide green jobs. As a by-product of these benefits, they will also save the City and its residents money, for example in healthcare.”
The city says the new plan that will demolish the park is better because it will take 3 1/2 years rather than the five years for the Big U plan. No one believes that the park can be demolished and rebuilt eight feet higher in 3 1/2 years. The city is going to spend $1.45 billion on the new plan. (Since this was first published, the timeline has changed. In October, the mayor announced the construction would be phased so parts of the park would remain open throughout construction. The timeline is now five years. The same as the Big U plan. So, uh, hello Mr. Mayor? Can you go back to that and not demolish our park?)
The old plan should be resurrected and revised as needed.
For the Summary of the Big U in pdf format, click the link here.
Here’s a comparison compiled by Wendy Brawer of the earlier plan and the current plan:
Key differences in East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Alt 2 (community engaged plan, 3/18) to Alt 4 (3/19 City Plan Summary). The ESCR has continually evolved.
• Original groundbreaking scheduled for 2017, then spring 2019. Now fall 2020
● Alt 2 was $445 Million. Costs escalated to $1.45 billion with Alt 4
● Esplanade was to remain open throughout construction for community use. Alt 4 closes and destroys the entire park
● Room for surging water, salt-water resistant and native planting. (12/18 Stewardship planning report by consultants, convened by Rebuild byDesign and GOLES, with community members, was released just when Alt 4 appeared.
● Artificial Wetlands were to be established, as developed by Lower East Side Ecology Center
● West edge of East River Park was to be bermed with rolling hills, grand bridge entrances, seating and greenway etc, plus walls and deployablewalls where needed. Alt 2 does not taper down to overlook FDR Drive on western third of park, nor place cyclists next to FDR lanes
● Passive space was not to be reduced nearly 3 acres. Alt 4 expands tennis courts and parking, replaces all turf fields.
● DEIS indicates Alt 2 removes 265 trees, Alt 3 removes 766 trees. Alt 4 removes 981 trees (including all in floodplain).
● Alt 2 did not destroy and rebuild amphitheater, Seal plaza, Ecology Center, embayments, new bridge ramp (Williamsburg), fitness area, etc
● Upland areas (extending to much of CB3, and especially NYCHA campuses) were to have new street trees, bioswales, absorbent green space
● There was not a new bridge at Corlears. Flyover discussed since Blue Way Plan (great ideas – elevated paths for using park while wet)
● Failure of the new bulkheads was not anticipated (should ESCR contractor be liable for a longer time?). Alt 4 has reconstruction of drainagesystem and sewer outfalls, pump houses (but not separation of combined sewerage to prevent water pollution)