Residents Speak Out as Mayor Moves Forward with Plan to Bulldoze East River Park

The plan is not the only way to protect the flood zone. In 2018, Mayor de Blasio overruled a plan that would save the park while still providing flood protection.

Zion DeCoteau Aug 12, 2021

Activists gathered outside City Hall to protest Mayor Bill de Blasio’s override of Comptroller Scott Stringer’s recent rejection of roughly $1.4 billion in construction contracts that will allow the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project to proceed.. 

“What is the point of [Stringer’s] office if the mayor can just come and overrule his decision?” Asked Fannie Ip of East River Park Action. 

East River Park Action has been a prominent voice in protesting the controversial flood control project  which would bulldoze, then bury East River Park under an industrial soil landfill and build a new park on top, in order to raise the site eight feet above the floodplain. The impetus for the plan comes from the 2012 inundation of the Lower East Side and the East Village with sea water during Hurricane Sandy.

“[De Blasio’s overruling] just shows the lack of democracy and transparency when it comes to this whole East River Park situation” said Christopher Marte, the Demcoratic nominee for City Council District 1. 

Christopher Marte. Photo: Zion De Coteau.

Marte, a passionate critic of ESCR, likened de Blasio’s latest move to the mayor’s 2018 override of a plan that had been hammered out over four years among various stakeholders in the neighborhood. The earlier plan called for installing concrete berms in the back of the park that runs along FDR Drive. This would have preserved 70 percent of the park but would have required closing on lane of the FDR during nighttime construction hours for many years. De Blasio insists that demolishing and rebuilding the park is the correct approach.

Activists like Jesse Cerrotti, a Democratic candidate for New York’s 12th Congressional District, say the ESCR is part of a chain of big real-estate, non-climate climate friendly construction across the city. He even went on to call for the soon-to-be governor to recognize East River Park Action’s fight: “We have somebody else who we can tell to talk to Mayor de Blasio…Kathy Hochul. Congratulations!” Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will assume the governorship on August 24, following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation which occurred while the rally was happening.

Many activists regard the ESCR as a backwards step in the fight against climate change by a mayor who touts himself as being pro-environment. A day earlier on Twitter, de Blasio reacted to the United Nations’ climate report stating, “We’ve failed to act when it comes to climate change for decades. Today’s UN report is clear: we’ll now have to live with some major consequences. Let’s fight back before it gets even worse. Let’s protect our planet while we still can.”

Allie Ryan, a candidate for City Council District 2, found the mayor’s comments to be hypocritical, given that he supports the ESCR which temporarily will decommission green space and cut down 1000 trees. “My response: then stop the ESCR, an impending eco-disaster…” Ryan said to the crowd. 

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