BY GABE HERMAN | As much of the East Side community remains strongly opposed to the city’s coastal-resiliency plan, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Carlina Rivera this week announced the hiring of an independent consultant to review the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project.
Community complaints about the E.S.C.R. — a flood-protection project — include that it would close East River Park for three and a half years of construction, which would take away recreation space for kids and adults. There are also environmental concerns about dumping large amounts of dirt to raise the park by 8 or 9 feet. In addition, there are worries about a loss of biodiversity in the area.
There have been protests against the city’s plan, and many residents have spoken out against it at Community Board 3 meetings in recent months. The current scheme is going through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). In her part of the project’s ULURP review, Brewer requested in her recommendation that an independent environmental expert review and prepare comments about the project.
Brewer and Rivera announced that Deltares, an environmental consulting group based in the Netherlands, has been hired to review the project. The review will be led Dr. Hans Gehrels, the manager of the group’s market team on urban resilience.
“We’ve heard the requests of the community for an independent review before this goes into effect, and we listened,” Brewer said. “Dr. Gehrels will bring his vast experience and expertise to his analysis of this project, and I look forward to seeing the results of his review.”
According to the announcement, the intention was for Gehrels to interview “a variety of project stakeholders” from Sept. 9 to Sept. 13, and review the Preferred Alternative 4 proposal, along with the city’s three other project designs. The review will then culminate in a public report.
“Since earlier this year, our community has requested a third-party expert review that would bring greater scrutiny and clarity to E.S.C.R.,” Rivera said. “I look forward to the Deltares team’s expert and independent insight into the project as we work to ensure the city gets its first major storm-resiliency project done quickly and correctly for the communities impacted.”
Rivera’s office said the councilmember continues to press the de Blasio administration on community concerns about the project, and that the city responded it is still evaluating the possibility of phased construction that would avoid shutting down all of East River Park at once. There is also a report coming from the Department of Transportation on bikeway alternatives during the East River Park project, according to Rivera’s office.
To contribute to the independent review, members of the public can submit comments or concerns to Deltares by e-mail at ESCR@manhattanbp.nyc.gov.
The consultants’ report will be published as soon as possible, according to the announcement, since the City Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the project’s ULURP application on Mon., Sept. 23. After Planning votes, the City Council will vote on the project.