Neighbors concerned over proposal for floodwalls by two playgrounds

Murphy's Brother's Playground (Photo courtesy of Parks NYC)

Murphy’s Brother’s Playground (Photo courtesy of Parks NYC)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community residents voiced their concerns about a plan to redesign two local playgrounds around a floodwall that’s part of the coastal resiliency project planned for the East Side.

They got a chance to provide input on changes for Asser Levy and Murphy’s Brothers playgrounds in a meeting last Thursday. This was the second public meeting on the subject.

Meanwhile, some residents were frustrated that the proposals from the mayor’s officer were the same as those presented at the previous meeting, held last November. Carrie Grassi, deputy director for planning at the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, explained that this meeting was primarily scheduled to give residents a second chance to provide input at a more convenient location, since some had complained the previous meeting was held too far from the actual project area. The most recent meeting was held directly adjacent to the affected area at the VA Medical Center, while the previous meeting was held at Washington Irving High School.

“We wanted to give more people the opportunity to see the presentation with fresh eyes so they were unbiased in their feedback,” she said.

Another concern, which was also raised at the last meeting, was the effect construction might have on the Peter Stuyvesant Little League, as well as the effect a reconfigured Murphy’s Brothers would have on the games.

Asser Levy Playground (Photo courtesy of Parks NYC)

Asser Levy Playground (Photo courtesy of Parks NYC)

“(The proposals) are not taking into account that baseball has an outfield,” PSLL President Jeff Ourvan said of the diagrams presented by the mayor’s office. “We’re pinched in there now. At least protect what we have now and don’t shrink us anymore. There’s no place for us to go.”

Grassi said that the purpose of the meetings on the playgrounds is to get feedback on the different proposals that the mayor’s office has come up with, or to determine if the community would prefer keeping the playground configurations the same.

The proposed flood protection runs adjacent to each playground along the FDR Drive, although Asser Levy has two different possibilities for where the wall turns west. One option has a floodwall running along the FDR up to East 25th Street before turning towards First Avenue to meet the floodwall that the VA Hospital is constructing. The second option would have the wall cutting in between the playground and the recreation center.

East Midtown Plaza resident Claude Winfield argued against the second option, and other residents at the meeting agreed with him.

“The recreation center and the playground are like a single unit and I wouldn’t want to see a wall there,” Winfield said. “It would be better not to divide the park and create two separate entities between the playground and the administration building.”

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