New York City and New York State have made great strides this year passing bills designed to address the root cause of climate change–greenhouse gas emissions–but in a city with 520 miles of coastline, there is much more to be done to protect people and communities from current and future impacts.
The East Side is one area where the impact of climate change was deeply felt during Hurricane Sandy.
The City is working to ensure this area is more resilient to future storms. Last week, the New York City Council passed the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Plan. It will provide strong, environmentally-sound protection while minimizing disruption to the community during construction.
This plan is years in the making. Several years ago, in the aftermath of Suoetstorm Sandy, the Stuyvesant Town, Lower East Side, and East Village communities came together to advocate for protective measures to fortify their waterfront and their residents from the threats of flooding from sea-level rise and storm surge. They formed partnerships with designers and architects and submitted a winning proposal to the Rebuild by Design competition. Then last year, usurping five years of community-driven planning, the city advanced a significantly different plan for the stretch of the East River waterfront between 25th Street and Montgomery Street. This blindsided many in the community and heightened tensions around this critical project that in some ways still remain today.
Councilmember Carlina Rivera and Borough President Gale Brewer stepped up in the aftermath of this turnabout to ensure their constituents were heard, including funding a third-party review of the new plan. NYLCV commends both for the leadership they showed on behalf of the community throughout this process.
Since they introduced the new plan, the city held more than 40 meetings with community-based organizations, tenant associations, NYCHA residents, and community boards, and updated the project to reflect the input they received from the community. Among other things, the latest plan ensures roughly half of East River Park will remain open throughout the build-out process, air quality monitoring will be ingoing during construction, includes strong dust and noise mitigation, and nearly 1,000 new trees will be planted in the community.
NYLCV believes that we must get community-led resiliency projects off the ground in other vulnerable waterfront communities, and it starts with the advancement of the ESCR project. We sent a letter of support to Council Members urging them to vote in favor of the plan. We also wrote an op-ed in support of the project.
We will continue to work with all stakeholders as this project, and other waterfront resiliency projects, are implemented.