City holds open house on East Side Coastal Resiliency

An open house on the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project took place last week in Peter Cooper Village. (Pictured) A Stuyvesant Town resident, Lawrence Scheyer, speaks with a city representative. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents got another chance last week to provide feedback on the proposed East Side Coastal Resiliency project on Wednesday and Thursday during open houses in Peter Cooper Village.

Jeff Margolies, executive director for the office of intergovernmental and community relations at the Department of Design and Construction, said that the goal of the open houses was to present the overall project goals to residents and give residents the opportunity to ask questions.

“People can talk with talk with a lot of the city agencies involved in the project,” he said. “We have people here from the Parks Department, Department of Transportation, the Department of Buildings and a few others.”

A main concern for residents in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village is still regarding the structure that will be built on East 20th Street as part of the project, an interceptor gate building to help with drainage that would be constructed on the island near Avenue C on the southern side of the street.

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ESCR will mean lots of noise for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village

East Side Coastal Resiliency Project rendering showing the Stuyvesant Cove area

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project has found that construction on the flood protection project will likely create disruptive noise for some residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.

The document, released by the Department of Design and Construction on Friday, April 5, predicts that construction on the flood protection system will result in “significant adverse noise effects” for 315-321 Avenue C and 620 East 20th Street in Stuy Town and 601 East 20th Street, 8 Peter Cooper Road, 7 Peter Cooper Road, 530 East 23rd Street and 520 East 23rd Street in Peter Cooper.

Despite the increase in outside noise, the DEIS predicts that the decibel levels will actually be considered acceptable inside when the windows are closed because the buildings in ST/PCV have insulated glass. Other buildings within the project area farther downtown, as well as the Asser Levy recreation center, appear to have non- insulating glass windows and are expected to experience noise levels higher than the threshold recommended for residential use, according to City Environmental Quality Review noise exposure guidelines, due to pile driving and other construction work west of the FDR immediately adjacent to the rec center building.

The 961-page document examined overall potential impacts of the plan that the city has chosen to provide continuous flood protection for the East Side, in addition to considering the impact of not building any flood protection and four other alternative plans that the city considered.

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Stuyvesant Town residents slam re-designed 20th Street

Community residents attend a meeting that ended up focusing on the state of the recently reconfigured 20th Street. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents are fed up with the changes to East 20th Street and demanded that the street be returned to its pre-L-shutdown state before the city begins work on the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project that will affect the roadway.

Tenants expressed their grievances about the state of the street at a recent meeting hosted by the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association. There, the Department of Design and Construction offered updates about the resiliency plan, which is intended to provide flood protection for the East Side in the event of another Hurricane Sandy.

Department of Design and Construction associate project manager Eric Ilijevich explained at the meeting that there is a structure that will likely be placed on East 20th Street near Avenue C that will help improve drainage during a flood event. Although this is not a new component to the plan, residents had concerns about the container due to the other changes that the street has undergone.

“Twentieth Street is being condemned by everything that you guys are planning,” Stuy Town resident Tom Nonnon said. “You need more community involvement.”

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Neighbors demand clarity on Coastal Resiliency project

Department of Design and Construction associate project manager Eric Ilijevich (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Gramercy residents slammed city officials for a lack of updates and lack of response to concerns about the flood protection project planned for the East Side at a Community Board 6 meeting last Monday.

Representatives for the Department of Design and Construction, which is overseeing the plan known as the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, were at the Land Use and Waterfront committee meeting last week ostensibly to provide updates on Project Area 2, which stretches from East 13th Street around the Con Edison plant up to just beyond the Asser Levy Recreation Center and playground at East 25th Street.

But Land Use Committee member and East Midtown Plaza resident Claude Winfield expressed frustration at the meeting that DDC’s presentation encompassed the changes outside the community district without addressing any of the concerns committee members had expressed about the project in their neighborhood.

When representatives for DDC said that there would be additional opportunities to ask questions about the plan, committee chair Sandro Sherrod responded, “We don’t have questions so much as objections to parts of the plan.”

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Affordable housing and L train woes top concerns at East Side town hall

Mayor Bill de Blasio answers questions from audience members at a town hall co-hosted by Council Member Keith Powers at Hunter College. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The L train shutdown and the lack of local affordable housing were among the main concerns of East Side residents who packed a town hall hosted by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Councilmember Keith Powers last Wednesday evening. The mayor, along with numerous representatives from city agencies as well as Powers and other local elected officials, answered questions from more than 300 advocates and community residents during the event at Hunter College.

Stuyvesant Town resident and former ST/PCV Tenants Association president Al Doyle got in the first question of the night, asking the mayor if he would actively support a return to rent stabilization of all apartments that had been deregulated due to vacancy decontrol.

The mayor admitted that he couldn’t necessarily commit to that, at least at this point, despite wanting to.

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Neighbors, CB6 have concerns over revised East Side Coastal Resiliency project

Some of the people in attendance at the meeting (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Around 200 East Side residents, concerned about sudden changes to a plan that proposes rebuilding sections of the parks close to the water, packed a meeting that was held to update the community on Tuesday night. The most significant departure from the original plan, known as the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, is a de facto rebuilding of the East River Park on top of flood protection rather than building the flood protection around the existing park.

Representatives from a number of city agencies were on hand at the event, which was held at Hunter’s Brookdale Campus on East 25th Street, a day after a similar meeting about the project on the Lower East Side.

Although most of the substantial changes announced at this meeting and an event held the day before on the Lower East Side were related to the plans for East River Park farther downtown, officials scheduled the second meeting at Brookdale at the insistence of Community Board 6 representatives and local elected officials, since the entire project area stretches up to East 25th Street.

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Solar 2 design released

This rendering, by Bjark Ingels Group (BIG), shows how the replacement building for Solar One will look, complete with a kayak launch accessible at Stuyvesant Cove Park.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Project architects have released renderings for Solar One’s new building that will be replacing the environmental organization’s original structure along the East River across from Peter Cooper Village within the next two years. The Economic Development Corporation, the city agency overseeing the project, presented the plan to Community Board 6’s land use and waterfront committee on January 22.

Although the project has been referred to as “Solar 2,” the new building will fully replace the organization’s original structure and the renderings show a “Solar One” sign on the building’s western face. According to the presentation, construction on Solar 2 is expected to be completed before the start of 2019 and construction on the additional flood protection in Stuyvesant Cove Park, which is part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project, won’t begin until 2021 or 2022. The ESCR project includes a combination of berms and flood walls to protect the nearby neighborhoods from a possible flood event, and since Solar One’s building is expected to be operational before construction begins for the ESCR, that flood protection will be built around the new structure.

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Section of Stuyvesant Cove Park inspires short dance film

Dancer Megan Nordle performs at Stuyvesant Cove Park.

By Sabina Mollot

Recently, a Stuyvesant Town journalist and artist found inspiration in a section of her neighborhood that’s so small it’s likely to get overlooked even by people who pass it by all the time.

That plot of land is a rocky outcropping of the shoreline that’s covered in sand and a known hangout for ducks and geese.

Karen Loew, who refers to the spot in Stuyvesant Cove Park as “the beach,” first found herself drawn to it for a simple reason. She liked it. But after learning about the controversial history of the location as well as the park itself from a neighbor, Loew knew she wanted to film it. She went on to put together an exhibition of photography as well as a short, dance film, called “No Man’s Land,” that will be shown at the 14th Street Y this summer.

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City proposes reconfiguring 2 playgrounds as part of East Side flood protection plan

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Asser Levy Playground (pictured) and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground will be impacted by the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. (Photo courtesy of Parks Department)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The city has been exploring options to redesign Asser Levy Playground and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground, since both will be affected by the construction of flood protection along the East Side of Manhattan from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street.

Earlier in the month, representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency discussed the proposals at a community meeting held at Washington Irving High School.

Carrie Grassi, the deputy director of planning for the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, mentioned how the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project will run adjacent to both parks and construction will disturb activities there.

However, since the city is only in the concept design stage with the project, Grassi said that decisions for all aspects aren’t necessarily final yet. One such instance is the placement of the floodwall as it approaches the Asser Levy Playground. One configuration has the wall bordering the park along the FDR Drive, turning along East 25th Street and connecting with the floodwall that the VA Hospital is working on.

“But some feel that would be too imposing,” Grassi said.

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East River flood protection plan extended to 25th St.

Meeting attendees in 2015 look at a model of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with a planned elevated park at the waterfront. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Meeting attendees in 2015 look at a model of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with a planned elevated park at the waterfront. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The plan to provide flood protection to the community along the East River has shifted design elements from East 23rd Street to 25th Street due to complications with the intersection in the original plan. The Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency announced the changes to the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) plan in a task force meeting with Community Boards 3 and 6 on Tuesday night.

Representatives from the Office of Recovery and Resiliency as well as the urban design team working on the project have spoken at community meetings previously about the plan, the goal of which is to provide flood protection from Montgomery Street to East 23rd Street, incorporating floodwalls and an elevated park.

Carrie Grassi, Deputy Director for Planning at the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, said that the “tieback” was moved to East 25th Street because East 23rd Street is a technically difficult area.

“We’re trying to come up with an alternative that doesn’t make that intersection worse,” she said.

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2015: A look back

A coyote (not the one pictured) was spotted in Stuyvesant Town in January.

A coyote (not the one pictured) was spotted in Stuyvesant Town in January.

By Sabina Mollot

Capped with yet another sale of Stuyvesant Town — this time with the highest price tag ever at $5.45 billion — 2015 was certainly an eventful year for the community.

Town & Village has taken a look back to find the top ten local events of the year.

1. The highly anticipated sale of course was a big one, with the deal being cheered as part of Mayor de Blasio’s campaign platform promise to preserve or build 200,000 units of affordable housing. The sale to new owners The Blackstone Group came as welcome news to many tenants due to its representatives’ willingness to listen to tenant concerns as well as a commitment to preserve 5,000 units of affordable housing. While for others — specifically, tenants in the other 6,200-plus units, the deal simply maintains the status quo of stabilized status with market rate tents. Blackstone has promised additional announcements early in the New Year, which hopefully will include a decision, made in cooperation with the city, of how people can get a lease to the affordable units as they become available.

2. Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, while always known as a bird sanctuary and a habitat for the world’s most well-fed squirrels, also managed to attract the attention of a coyote. The young female coyote, named Stella by Parks reps who rescued her, had been found wandering around the Avenue C side of the property near the Con Ed plant. She was captured by police officers, and then later released by the Parks department into a wooded area in the Bronx.

A Parks official T&V interviewed about the incident said that coyote sightings in the city are becoming more common, and she expected that this trend would only continue. Just a couple of weeks prior to the Stuy Town sighting, another coyote was found in Riverside Park, and in 2011, another coyote had wandered into Tribeca.

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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.

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Area residents wary of planned ferry landing

Meeting attendees look at a model of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with a planned elevated park at the waterfront. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Meeting attendees look at a model of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with a planned elevated park at the waterfront. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community residents got the opportunity to interact with 3D models showing possibilities for flood protection and access to the waterfront on the East Side at the most recent workshop for the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project last Thursday evening. This meeting was the third in a round of public workshops, held at Washington Irving High School, discussing different options for the area along the East River from East 14th to 23rd Streets in terms of protecting the neighborhood from future storm surges and future Hurricane Sandys.

Since the first public workshop was held in March, the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency along with the urban design team working on the project have narrowed the design ideas down into a combination of an elevated park that integrates static floodwalls and deployable features. The break in the elevated park, known as a berm or levee, at East 20th Street is partially to accommodate a ferry landing that the Environmental Development Cooperation is considering developing there. Representatives from the city and the urban designers working on the project said they could not answer specific questions on the ferry landing itself since that project is not under the purview of the ESCR, but some residents at the meeting expressed concern about what the increased foot traffic would mean for the neighborhood.

“We want to see certain lovely things stay but newer, shinier and busier isn’t always better,” Stuyvesant Town resident Laura Koestler said. “Right now it’s small potatoes but it can become commercialized. With the possibility of a ferry over there, I just picture what the insane crowds have become at the Williamsburg Flea.”

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Ideas for waterfront by Stuy Cove include cafes, elevated park

Area residents listen to a discussion about potential use of the waterfront at a meeting at Washington Irving High School. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Area residents listen to a discussion about potential use of the waterfront at a meeting at Washington Irving High School. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The coastal resiliency project backed by the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency has announced new possible plans for the waterfront by Stuyvesant Cove Park, with ideas including cafes or an elevated park.

The Tuesday evening workshop held at Washington Irving High School was more interactive than the previous gathering, which was mainly a presentation from ORR director Dan Zarilli and Jeremy Siegel, a project designer with the consultant team of Big U and director of Rebuild by Design.

Rebuild by Design was launched by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and held a competition for resiliency ideas, which resulted in the Big U project to protect the coastline known as the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project.

ORR senior policy advisor Carrie Grassi said this week that there was a short gap between the end of the contest and the beginning of the design process, but the project is now gaining more momentum.

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City hears community input for East Side Coastal Resiliency Plan

Some of the crowd at a workshop held at Washington Irving High School on Monday to gather information on how community residents want to interact with the waterfront (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Some of the crowd at a workshop held at Washington Irving High School on Monday to gather information on how community residents want to interact with the waterfront (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Since wreaking havoc on the city almost two and a half years ago, Hurricane Sandy has prompted the formation of various programs and projects throughout New York, with efforts being made to prevent such a catastrophe from repeating. One such effort driven by the city is the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, which is in the early planning stages and this past week held workshops looking for input from community residents on how they want to interact with the waterfront.

The workshops were held last Thursday and this past Monday, with the first being held on East Houston Street and the second at Washington Irving High School on Irving Place. A representative for Rebuild by Design, which was launched by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and which ran the competition to come up with solutions for preserving the coastline, said at the event on Monday that the locations were intentional; each workshop covered the same material but was held in different parts of the project area to give residents an option that was in their neighborhood.

Maps were stationed at the back of the auditorium for attendees to provide input on how they interact with the waterfront throughout the project area, which spans from Montgomery Street north to East 23rd Street. Dan Zarrilli, director of the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, said that one of the major aspects of the process for the project is community engagement and gathering input from activities like this.

“We’re here to listen and we want to make sure that we incorporate the insight of the community,” he said. “We’ve set up a task force with community boards 3 and 6 to be a continuing source of insight. The city came up with this program to recommend things to do. It’s not just about the past, it’s about a range of shocks we endured and looking beyond the coast to build up and reinforce the infrastructure. It’s about interacting with the neighborhood.”

Zarrilli said that much of what the project is focusing on through the end of this year is getting this feedback from the community to create a more complete picture for the design plan and another workshop soliciting input is planned for the end of May.

The project is part of a bigger initiative to protect Lower Manhattan known as the Big U, which was the winning design in the Rebuild by Design competition in 2013. Jeremy Siegel, a project designer with the consultant team of Big U and director of Rebuild by Design, explained at the workshop what the designers are looking at for this phase of the project.

“We’ve been working since December on some of the engineering aspects, like investigating below grade and checking drainage, checking how much water the existing infrastructure can accommodate, surveying the land and inspecting waterfront structures,” he said. “We have divers out in the East River examining the flood risk and checking how high the flood wall would need to go.”

Zarrilli added that community involvement is an important component to add to all the information from the engineers.

“We’ll be taking the site surveys and all of the engineering things with the overlay of the community process so we can understand everything in context,” he said. “Community engagement is key.”

Siegel noted that within the space from Montgomery to East 23rd, the project is split into two project areas: Montgomery to East 14th Streets and East 14th to 23rd Streets. All of the neighborhoods in these areas had different challenges during Hurricane Sandy and Siegel said that part of the design plans will be the considerations for different aspects of the area, such as the substation at Con Edison that flooded and caused power outages throughout Lower Manhattan, as well as the NYCHA properties and hospitals that are nearby that also suffered flood damage. The three different options for mitigating flooding in the future that Siegel outlined include some kind of berm or levee, a permanent floodwall or some kind of deployable floodwall.

“(The deployable wall) would only be put in place in a storm event,” Siegel said. “These carry risks because human operation is involved, so we’re looking at more passive and permanent measures, so resiliency is there in a robust way.”

One resident asked at the workshop why the project area didn’t extend past East 23rd Street since the hospitals in that area had been badly damaged by flooding as well. Zarrilli explained that billions of dollars are already being invested in that area through different projects.

“The city just announced more funding for Bellevue and NYU is receiving FEMA money, so this project is focusing south,” he said.

Peter Cooper Resident Anne Greenberg had a related question about one such project that the VA Hospital on East 23rd Street has proposed, which includes a floodwall to protect the facility from water damage in the future. She noted that in the event of flooding like that in the future, the water could be redirected right into Peter Cooper Village. Zarrilli noted that they are looking at flood modeling to make sure that doesn’t happen and added that they do intend to talk to STPCV management to work with them, but he couldn’t confirm that they have yet.

Following the workshops, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney emphasized the importance of the project and praised the mayor’s office for the initiative.

“We need to immediately address the City’s vulnerability to extreme storms, which are only increasing in frequency and severity as a result of climate change,” Maloney said. “Lower Manhattan was particularly hard hit, and I am pleased to have worked to obtain federal funding to improve the resiliency of the area. I applaud Mayor de Blasio and the Office of Recovery and Resiliency for coordinating the city-wide efforts to protect our residents and infrastructure and for including the public in the planning. The East Side Coastal Resiliency Project is an important first step in preparing Manhattan’s East Side for future storms and will offer new open space and amenities that will benefit our community for generations to come.”