Here’s what happened:
We lost our case in the Court of Appeals—the state’s highest court on Dec. 16. The the city can finish demolition of East River Park with impunity. The Court of Appeals denied our motion for appeal. They denied our motion to hold the City of New York City in contempt. They dismissed our motion for a stay “as academic.”
From Nov. 4 to Dec. 6, we had a Temporary Restraining Order in effect. That was the only delay we’ve ever caused in the massively and unnecessarily destructive East Side Coastal Resiliency project.
In recent weeks, during repeated peaceful (but noisy) protests, 14 nonviolent protesters were arrested as they tried to block the construction entrances and when they tried to deliver the Temporary Restraining Orders that were in effect. Over the past three years, park/environmental/neighborhood activists have demonstrated, testified, rallied, lobbied and finally sued. This city does not listen.
Final decision, death sentence for East River Park affirmed by Court of Appeals, December 16, 2021
Our appeal for alienation (state oversight) was turned down by the appellate court Nov. 30. That lifted the temporary restraining order that had gone into effect on Nov. 4. The TRO had prevented work to start on the park until there was a ruling. The verdict lifted the TRO, and contractors started fencing off the southern 60% of the park.
Our attorneys asked the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals to reconsider. That court agreed and issued a stay, see below. The Mayor’s administration, via the Dept. of Design and Construction, defied the order and instructed the contractors to proceed demolition of the park. On Dec. 7, they started cutting trees and continued working 24/7.
Several activists have been arrested trying to give a copy of the stay to the contractors and NYPD officers. The NYPD said orders to allow the contractors to continue came from “higher ups.”
Bad news. We lost the appeal for Alienation in the Appellate Court Nov. 30. The Temporary Restraining Order is off. Here is the decision: https://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2021/2021_06652.htm
NLG-NYC statement on East River Park destruction
December 15, 2021:
The New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and its Environmental Justice Committee condemn the egregious actions by the Mayor and his administration that has inflicted irreparable harm on East River Park in abrogation of the Court order preventing any work from proceeding.
We encourage the Court of Appeals to impose the maximum penalties available against the City and its actors for inflicting this irreparable damage. The DeBlasio Administration, claiming to protect residents of the Lower East Side from future flood devastation while preserving the community’s access to open green space, has fully failed in both of these regards, instead recklessly and violently undercutting public health, public safety, and public participation, while flouting the rule of law.
Chainsaws and heavy forestry machinery, operated with full protection from the NYPD, have been clear-cutting the mature trees of East River Park for the last week, including in the dead of night, despite a Court-issued restraining order blocking this specific activity.
The City Law Department’s specious interpretation of this order may fail under the Court’s review, but this will do nothing to reverse the destruction of park trees and the public commons beloved by the 100,000 Lower East Side residents for whom the park provides recreation, respite and sanctuary. It was incumbent on the City to refrain from commencing demolition of East River Park pending resolution of the litigated issues by the high court rather than commencing wholesale destruction. Instead, the City has aggressively and impermissibly attacked a beloved community space and ecosystem. This will only further erode the public’s trust.
The National Lawyers Guild-NYC and its Environmental Justice Committee stand with the people of the Lower East Side and of New York City, who deserve protection from climate change and access to clean air, heat mitigation and open space. The City’s reprehensible actions will ensure hotter temperatures in the summer, increase dust particulate matter, and deprive children of a place to play, in a community already burdened by environmental illness and COVID. The City’s actions will ensure an increase in environmental-related illness, and a decrease in the quality of life for the community.
The City’s undercutting of judicial process shows its contemptuous disregard for law, the environment, and the people of this City.
Temporary Restraining Order granted Nov. 8, 2021:
Motion for Contempt
Issued by the judge on Dec. 13, 2021.
Tommy Loeb’s video of talk with Capt. Erik Worobey of Transit (?!?) at the vehicle entrance to the demolition site early this morning. (In the press release, it was misstated that 7th precinct commander Capt. Barcia was on the scene. It was Worobey. Capt. Barcia arrived later.)
Statement from National Lawyers Guild, NY Chapter: