Oct. 3, 2019 ESCR ULURP Hearing (Subcommittee on Landmarks, Sitings, and Dispositions) (sent to firstname.lastname@example.org 10/7/19)
I’m Wendy Brawer, a sustainability professional community resident who has been at the East River Park planning table for a decade. I attended most of 10/3/19 ESCR hearing, and thank all of the Council Members who chaired it, stayed throughout, or watched the video.
Since you voted to declare a Climate Emergency in June, you know how grave the situation is, both in terms of climate health and surge protection. The ESCR will set a precedent. We cannot let the steps we take to protect ourselves destroy our chances for a better future for all.
At the Hearing both Commissioner Grillo and Deputy Springer swore that they do not know what fuel will used by the barges that bring half a million cubic yards of fill* to the razed East River Park. This tells me they do not know how much this plan will contribute to climate change. They could not – or would not – compare barges to trucks in response to questions about impacts on air, water and animal life by Councilmember Barron (video: 1:57:40 to 2:02). Fundamental answers must precede voting.
Before the hearing began, I introduced myself to a deputy DDC commissioner. I asked him which agency has overarching control of the entire ESCR, and he said ‘that sounds like a conspiracy theorist’s question’, and walked away without answering. The ESCR team often replies that they will have to get answers, but rarely follows through. Although this is supposed to be considered a community engaged plan, they have not walked into the Park to do outreach! The ESCR team admitted this at CB3 Parks September 2019 meeting ‘because they don’t know when to go, or where to get a table’. How can we trust them?
Ironically, once the imported fill arrives, the beeping, clanging, emissions and dust will be the same, just a few feet further away from 10,000 residents’ windows, but without trees or greenery to buffer the impacts. Park destruction is a grave injustice to vulnerable residents, the environment and climate.
Today, walls are being built around ESCR-adjacent NYCHA buildings. I annotated 2 pages of NYC’s presentations asking, why not finish these barriers and design others that protect vulnerable homes across the neighborhood? Our space is tight, but look atHoboken’s model which follows the ‘resist, delay, store and discharge’ protocol for stormwater (page 3) http://bit.ly/ESCR10319 shows some of their barriers, deployables and catchments rather than outdated seawalls. We could have the same to protect buildings throughout the ESCR area by converting parking lanes to protection, rather than a design that significantly reduces usable areas of our narrow park (page 4). Let’s return the public right of way to public use, and store private cars elsewhere.
The rush to bury the park – which is also our community commons – without even studying the feasibility of the popular option of decking over the FDR and making room for the water and preserving the park’s ecosystem – this lowers our ability to deal with climate change’s acute and chronic emergencies. An image of the decking from the winning Big U 2014 plan is on p 5.
ESCR also punishes non-polluting bicyclists by placing them in the ‘smoking lane’ too close to FDR traffic exhaust. I commented on the DEIS Transportation chapter, which leaves out consideration of health, emissions, or congestion pricing (which matters because the FDR will become the ‘free zone,’ increasing traffic as soon as 2021). Private cars are being prioritized by ESCR’s Alternative 4 although they contribute 16% of NYC’s Greenhouse Gases. 200+ responded to the DEIS (although they are required to respond, see how the City brushed off even NYS Attorney General James by searching her name in Chapter 10 (http://bit.ly/FEISch10).
After meeting with Dr. Gehrels, the Deltares consultant, I researched his questions about the alternative plans (see page 6 for a synopsis (letter is linked to details – on how the City has conflated the alternatives).
I’ve also mapped East River Park (p 7) and led tours there since the 90’s as part of my work as director of Green Map System – I offer you a walking or cycling tour. In fact, members of East River Alliance and East River Park Action would be glad to share perspectives on site with City Councilmembers and staff ASAP.
Something else that alarmed me at the hearing: I have been especially active all year, interacting with the City’s ESCR team at countless presentations, CB meetings and community events, yet at the hearing, they roundly ignored me and other community members who are their partners and ongoing stewards of the Park. Only Alda Chan, Director of Resiliency at Parks, acknowledged me.
Alda invited me to donate my time to the Task Force forming in support of the LES Community Tree Canopy (I campaigned for these 1,000 street trees and CB3 passed the Resolution I drafted in February, yet no stewardship programming is part of ESCR mitigation. The City knows working together builds capacity for social resilience and trust which has been proven to reduce trauma and save lives during emergencies while mitigating climate impacts and improving community wellbeing. Moreover, along with 40 bioswales, these 1,000 trees are the only natural mitigation of construction planned to date, the rest being paint and artificial turf; moreover, the new park will have nearly three fewer acres of passive green space, too.
In a high asthma neighborhood (where many frontline residents still suffer from World Trade Center contaminants), evicting all of nature from the park is a grave social, environmental and climate injustice. Free ferries to Governors Island, Brooklyn Bridge and other parks from the NYC Ferry docks in East River Park – a sensible, healthy demand voiced since the ‘preferred alternative’ replaced the community-engaged plan, reinforced by CM Chin at the ESCR ULURP hearing is another example of mitigation for our community’s ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ that was deflected by NYC.
Government must tell the truth. Even the Mayor knows this is not the world-class flood protection we were promised, and notably leaves the ESCR off the list of climate initiatives his office proudly circulated this week. Use your Veto power, if necessary, to stop this anti-nature plan. Temporary flood protection coupled with an honest, inclusive and just process for establishing a brighter, greener, more protective and healthier ESCR is the plan I ask you to stand behind.
Wendy Brawer, email@example.com
*Roughly calculated by Sara Perl Egendorf, Brooklyn College Urban Soils Lab: 1 foot per acre = 1613.33cubic yards. For 8 feet covering an acre, it would take 12,907 cubic yards.
According to Parks’ website, John V. Lindsay East River Park is 45.88 acres = 592,431 cubic yards. How many barge trips is this? We have asked the ESCR, without getting an answer.