Decking over the highway will give us more park, flood protection and cleaner air
At every community meeting in the post Hurricane Sandy planning, decking over the FDR was a top choice. Since then, Rockefeller U decked over the FDR, adding 2 acres and lab buildings for $500M.
Now, as the city discusses covering sections of the Cross-Bronx Expressway with parkland, it’s time to revisit that idea for our crowded Lower East Side neighborhood that sits hard by the six-lane FDR Drive.
A one mile deck adjacent to East River Park would add 8 acres of parkland, be a flood barrier and redirect emissions from the windows of NYCHA residences (where high asthma, the lingering effects of 911 dust, and Covid (nearly 500 dead in the two closest zipcodes) are exacerbated by bridge and power plant emissions).
Having elevated sports fields and running/bike paths would allow the current park to perform as a sponge when there are storm surges and tidal flooding, much like the new park in Long Island City at Hunters Point. The vitality of the East River and its shoreline will be protected by existing and enhanced natural systems.
The current ESCR plan is a model of what not to do. Rather than deforest the existing park, let’s spend $4 million for inflatable interim flood protection and attach prefabricated storm barriers to the west side of the FDR now, while planning the best, most equitable and economical way to a lasting solution – a deck over the roadway that incorporates public health, climate health and a just transition.
30% of the Greenhouse Gases in the US come from transportation. Rethinking the 1930’s style of imposing roadways between low income communities and parkland will need to include decking over or burying space dominated by single occupancy vehicles.
Of course, many issues need to be studied – but this plan to cover the FDR offers a way forward. Let’s include in its calculations the value of new parkland in a crowded neighborhood.
by Wendy Brawer
The illustrations below are from “The Big ‘U,’ promoting resilience post-Sandy through innovative planning design and programming” by Rebuild by Design.
EXTENDING THE PARK
Though the community, city agencies and the design team had productive discussions about the possibility of covering the FDR with a contiguous park space, this proposal is limited to an in-park berm because of cost and current feasibility. However, it does set up a framework that would support such a future intervention. This berm could be the edge of a decking system over the highway, with planting, program, and open space on top. Alternatively, as traffic and use patterns change, the highway could be removed altogether and replaced with an expansive park. This current proposal anticipates either of these future options.
—from the Big U report
More from the Big U report about ideas for flood control and community participation. Many concepts presented here. We got none of what the community liked.
For more about the alternatives to the massively destructive East Side Coastal Resiliency project, see our post, “Whaddya Want Anyway?”