NYC officials held two community meetings last week to discuss their newest plans to protect the East Side from storm surges.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Meetings about such flood-protection efforts have gone on for nearly five years, since a broader project known as the Big U — stretching from West 57th Street around the Battery and up to East 42nd Street — won federal funding through a competition after Superstorm Sandy, which caused 43 deaths and $19 billion in damage across NYC.
But the most recent meetings come just months after NYC announced it would overhaul part of the Big U plan — known as the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project — focused on land from East 25th Street down to Montgomery Street, with particular attention to East River Park.
The overhaul, which would change 70 percent of the East Side project, was met with concern from residents and elected officials, especially because it would close East River Park for three years and come with a $1.4 billion price tag, $700 million more than expected. Last week’s meetings are a good step toward making sure residents’ concerns are heard.
But the change of plans includes good news. It’s encouraging that the new plan is supposed to cause less disruption and noise for area residents, because much of the work would occur closer to the East River. And the entire project’s timespan would be cut by six months, while the flood protection itself would be in place a year ahead of schedule. That’s important.
What’s more, by pushing the protection barriers closer to the East River, rather than along the FDR Drive, and raising the park, the new plan would better protect the park and other nearby properties. Waterfront and park access are crucial — and officials say that, too, would improve.
Now it’s time to turn the talk into reality, to complete the environmental review and approval process so work can begin by 2020. The city also needs to move forward on other pieces of the Big U, some of which still don’t have final designs or full funding.
The next big storm won’t wait.