Garodnick: East Side Coastal Resiliency plans could leave Watersiders stranded

Councilman Dan Garodnick and Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal are concerned about a potential lack of vehicle access to Waterside Plaza in the event of an emergency. (Photo courtesy of Waterside Plaza)

Councilman Dan Garodnick and Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal are concerned about a potential lack of vehicle access to Waterside Plaza in the event of an emergency. (Photo courtesy of Waterside Plaza)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Councilmember Dan Garodnick said he’s concerned that plans for the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, which is aimed at protecting the East Side in the event of a disaster, will block vehicle access to Waterside Plaza.

He mentioned this in testimony he gave on the draft scope of work for the environmental impact statement that will be done for the ESCR Project, on Monday.

Each alternative design for the ESCR has a set of barriers that would block the northbound FDR Drive service road at 23rd Street when deployed in the event of a flood. Garodnick pointed out that the barriers would then be blocking the only point of vehicle access to Waterside Plaza, which would block access for emergency vehicles, buses and trucks to the complex.

“This evaluation should consider not just the amount of time that it takes to put the barriers into place, but also how far in advance of a storm the barriers would be erected, and how long after a storm they will remain in place,” he said. “To study these impacts properly, it must be clear what the protocols are to be for determining when the barriers are to be deployed, and when they are removed.”

He noted that the length of time the barriers are deployed is important partially because Waterside is likely to be under an evacuation order if the barriers are deployed, and cutting off access for the buses makes it more difficult for residents to evacuate because this is the least expensive way out.

He added that access is also important because evacuation will likely be partial and there needs to be protections for residents who shelter in place, since they tend to be disabled, elderly or poor.

“These residents may need emergency services, so we must ensure that emergency vehicles, including ambulances and fire trucks, can access Waterside while the barriers are deployed,” he said.

Waterside Plaza Tenants Association President Janet Handal has also said access to Waterside is a key issue.

“It’s one thing when there is an active event and you don’t want vehicles trying to navigate the area but what we don’t have a sense of is how far in advance (the barriers) get deployed,” she said. “What they’ve suggested is that the southbound access point at Waterside might be a route for vehicles and you might be able to get an ambulance through, but you’re not going to get a fire truck with a ladder or a semi bringing food and water so there are issues about how the population is served before, during and after one of these events.”

Garodnick also argued in his testimony that the proposed barriers at the northern end of the project area could affect residents during construction and he noted that there are concerns that the changes in flooding patterns caused by these barriers could affect the piles that Waterside Plaza is built on.

“In particular,” the councilmember said, “the EIS should examine the effects of the changes in flooding patterns that would be caused by the barriers, whether they will result in accelerated flow directed toward the pilings that support Waterside, and whether this flow could be detrimental to the pilings.”

He added that the EIS should also examine scour effects that result from the barriers.

The draft Environmental Impact Statement was released at the end of November and public comments on it were accepted by the Department of Parks and Recreation until this past Monday. Once the Draft Scope review process is completed, including a summary of the public comments and the responses to the comments, a Final Scope of Work will be released in January.

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