By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Councilmembers Keith Powers, Carlina Rivera and Margaret Chin announced an agreement with Mayor Bill de Blasio for a number of community investments tied to the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project on Tuesday.
The negotiations from the Councilmembers were the result of feedback from multiple advocates in the community, including state and local elected officials, Community Boards 3 and 6, local park and stewardship organizations and NYCHA residents.
“By providing these flood protections, my neighbors and constituents in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village and the surrounding community will no longer have to dread forecasts of hurricanes and severe weather,” Powers said. “The significant commitments the city has made as a part of this historic project will not only provide short-term alternatives and mitigation, but also serve as long-term investments in our community.”
City Council will be voting on the land use actions for the project this Thursday, while these are commitments that the administration has agreed to incorporate as part of the plan as a result of the negotiations from the Councilmembers.
Community groups and park advocates have been actively rallying against the overall plan from the city, however, urging local councilmembers to vote against the project until a fully comprehensive study of all the alternative plans is made. (See “Vote ‘no’ on coastal resiliency plan,” Letters to the editor, page 4.)
In the recent agreement made with local councilmembers, the city has committed to a phasing plan for the project that will guarantee open space near the northern end of the project to maximize access to open space and the playgrounds at Asser Levy Playground, Murphy Brothers Playground and Stuyvesant Cove Park, and nearly half of East River Park will remain open at all times during project construction.
Overnight construction will also be minimized for the project, according to the agreement, using the strongest noise mitigation efforts and the quietest equipment available. Nearby residents should also receive notice at least two weeks in advance of the start of overnight construction and a public phone number will be available for residents to call overnight in order to report any issues.
Included in the agreement is a commitment to address the “pinch point” at East 13th Street, which disrupts the East River Greenway. The Department of Transportation will be constructing a new flyover bridge for improved access for pedestrians and cyclists. Construction on the flyover bridge is expected to begin after the Department of Design and Construction installs the necessary footings and the flood protection system by 2023 and the bridge is expected to be completed in 2025.
The DOT will also be also work with Councilmembers and local stakeholders to study the feasibility of installing protected bike lanes on Avenues A, B or C in order to provide alternative routes to the East River Greenway while construction is ongoing, and the results of the study are expected to be presented to the community next year.
Additionally, the DDC will be working with the Economic Development Corporation to reconfigure the parking lot under the FDR between East 18th and 20th Streets to create a pedestrian plaza and optimize the parking configuration.
As T&V has previously reported, the Parks Department will be implementing interim upgrades at other parks in the neighborhood, including Peter’s Field, in order to provide additional green space while construction is ongoing for the ESCR. Upgrades will also be implemented at Waterside Pier between East 38th and 41st Street, as well as at St. Vartan Park and Robert Moses Playground in Murray Hill.
Part of the agreement also includes a $3 million commitment from the city to address an outstanding funding gap for the construction of Solar One’s new building in Stuyvesant Cove Park.
“We are grateful to Council Member Powers and the City Council for this timely funding so that we may finish construction and outfitting of the Solar One Environmental Education Center at Stuyvesant Cove Park,” said Chris Collins, the executive director of Solar One. “This innovative and iconic building will serve as a solar powered and energy storage resilient hub for the surrounding community, providing resources for our neighbors in the case of a power outage or climate related emergency. Throughout the year, the building will serve as an extension of our green energy education programs, a real-world model of sustainable design and green technology, and an educational center for the local neighborhood, students, residents and visitors to the vibrant Stuyvesant Cove community and we are thrilled at the value this center will now be able to offer thanks to this funding.”
Also included in the commitments is access to the ferry dock at Stuyvesant Cove, which should be available throughout construction of the project.
The agreement includes the installation of a dog run at Murphy Brothers Playground that will be fulfilled by the Parks Department and the DDC, in addition to other new amenities for the playground, including a comfort station and electrical hook-up for a scoreboard that little leagues will be able to use.
The new dog park at Murphy Brothers was a large request from residents in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper.
“Peter Stuyvesant Little League is thrilled that a comfort station will be added to this project,” Little League President Seth Coren said. “We appreciate the incredible support from Council Members Powers and Rivera, balancing coastal resiliency with the need for robust recreational space in the community.”
The city will also begin a campaign to plant 1,000 new street trees in Community Boards 3 and 6 starting this fall and in 2020, the city will also begin to design flood protection for East 25th to 30th Streets to encompass critical infrastructure, including Bellevue Hospital.
“This ESCR agreement includes nearly every commitment our community requested, from phased, safe, and timely ESCR construction, to parks and NYCHA improvements, to commitments to re-examine interim flood protections and study bikeways and the future of the FDR,” Councilmember Rivera said. “With climate change accelerating and federal funding for this project set to expire in 2022, we know that we have to act fast to protect our East Side neighborhoods. And ESCR will not just ensure that protection, but also provide a historic investment that will help our communities reverse decades of environmental injustice.”