This is a letter to City Council Member Mark Levine, who is chair of Council Committee on Health and as a member of the Progressive Caucus. We are hoping to persuade the City Council to reconsider the budget item that will destroy East River Park. It is critical to contact City Council Members today!
Dear Councilman Levine,
I want to bring to your attention concerns about the $1.5 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency Plan (ESCR). This plan was approved by the Council in November and includes $1.1 billion of City funds.
One of the issues I have spent a great deal of time on over the past eight years was the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and how to protect our community from such a disaster in the future. I was here during Sandy, saw the water come over the esplanade in East River Park and flood our community. in fact my building has about two feet of water in the lobby so besides no electricity or water we were left without elevator service in a 21 story building with lots of elderly residents.
After several years a plan was conceived that involved a series of berms and walls and would only require destruction of about 30% of the park at half the projected cost of this plan. That plan was proceeding until without notice the City presented a totally new plan that would raise the entire park by 8-10 feet and require the destruction of the entire park. Every tree, plant, the Lower East Side Ecology Center, would all be gone. In fact Commissioner Grillo issued a public apology acknowledging the lack of transparency.
With the support of the Borough President Brewer an outside consultant was hired to conduct a brief review of the project. The report resulted in several recommendations and called into question the entire design. In fact the consultant pointed out that the City withheld critical information from him so that certain questions remain unanswered. One of the most important recommendations was the need for Interim Flood Protection since it will be at least another five hurricane seasons until the flood protection portion will be completed.There has been no progress on this even though is was included in the agreement with City Council more than seven months ago.
Understanding that local privilege is still at play it is important to know that a large segment of the community is not in agreement with the position of our Council Member. A lot of promises have been made and few have been kept. This is $1.5 billion and the problems associated with this project will be with us for years.
I would also like to point out that there is currently a lawsuit initiated by more than 90 community groups and individuals claiming the City bypassed New York State Law regarding Alienation of parkland. Every one of our State Legislators have testified that they believe Alienation applies in this situation but for some unknown reason the City has chosen to ignore this law.
There is a lot of information the community has gathered and would like the opportunity to discuss iwith you that iare too long to express in this email.. More than 8,500 people have signed petitions in opposition to the current plan. At this time of budget priorities we also believe there are more important immediate needs than moving forward with this plan at this time.
Construction is slated to begin this fall while the park is also the most important open space for thousands of residents of the entire east side.COVID-19 requires a fresh look at this project.
Please let me know if we could arrange a Zoom meeting with a couple of people, all knowledgeable on the issue so we can share our thoughts and concerns how the City should move forward. Write to me c/o email@example.com.
Thank you for your attention.
Tommy Loeb worked as Chief of Staff to Councilwoman Miriam Ftiedlandet who represented Lower East Side and spent 15 years as Director of District Office of NYS Senate Minority Leader Manfred Ohrenstein who represented West Side and Lower Manhattan. I then went on to work as Deputy Executive Director to former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messenger at American Jewish World Service.
He is happily retired now but still involved in local politics and community issues.