Battle over East River Park resiliency project reaches Stringer’s office with protest

Fuming Lower Manhattan residents called upon City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Tuesday to halt progress on the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR).

Ever since the devastation from Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on Lower Manhattan, a tug of war has raged between residents and city agencies over the proposed East River Park overhaul, which will lead to an elevation of the East Side waterfront. Opponents say the project will destroy the existing public park and cause various environmental impacts.

Nonetheless, the city approved the ESCR, and the plan awaits Stringer’s signature in order to free up the funding needed to get it started.

According to the ESCR plans, the work will raise the ground level to prevent flooding, protecting against severe weather disasters like Hurricane Sandy. Additionally, the proposal includes amenities such as a pedestrian crossing on Delancey Street and East 10th Street. However, those who actually spend time in the park say the groundwork will decimate the area and even impact health. 

“When they announced this plan, it involves destroying the entire East River Park, which is 46-acres and almost 1,000 mature trees,” said Fannie Ip, a member of East River Park Action.

Chants rang out, “Scott Stringer, kill the contract not the park.” Photo by Dean Moses

Ip describes the construction project as an overpriced and disastrous endeavor that will most likely burden New York City’s already sky-high budget.  She added that ESCR construction involves dumping 1 million tons of industrial soil (to fill about 8 feet), and then build a park on top of that fill.

The sidewalk outside of 1 Centre Street was overflowing with advocates who chanted “Don’t sign it, Scott!” as well as “Scott Stringer, kill the contract not the park” — the rallying cry from members of East River Park Action implored Stringer to halt the lower bidders, IPC Resiliency Partners, $1,272,221 construction contract.

They claim the park’s future is in his hands since he can choose whether or not to sign it’s registration. 

A little girl holds a sign, “Save East River Park!” Photo by Dean Moses

Activists say Stringer has the ability to withhold funding for the project, which is why they are pleading with the former mayoral candidate to prevent work they say will uproot some 1,000 trees that absorb C02 from passing traffic.

“We are just telling Scott Stringer to do one thing: throw away the pen, don’t sign the contract,” District 1 New York City Council candidate, Christopher Marte said, adding that Stringer has a legacy of climate justice. “If he signs that contract, he throws away that legacy. He throws away all the good he has done for this city. Scott Stringer, we know what side you should be on. Throw away the pen and stand with the people.”

District 1 New York City Council candidate, Christopher Marte. Photo by Dean Moses

Members at the rally believe that the ESCR plan takes away much needed, and easily accessible, greenspace from the Lower East Side, a racially diverse area filled with low income and working-class residents. Speakers even quoted Stringer’s past statements championing environmental justice, such as “Environmental racism means the people who pay the price are communities of color.”  

During the afternoon rally, East River Park Action delivered a letter to the Comptroller stating their case and urging him to withhold the contract’s registration. 

A representative from Stringer’s office addressed the contract telling amNewYork Metro that they are still reviewing it and the concerns involved.

A rally was held in from of 1 Centre Street calling for Scott Stringer to halt a construction contract on East River Park. Photo by Dean Moses

“It is the Office of the Comptroller’s responsibility to do Charter-mandated due diligence on this contract, especially given the size and magnitude. Our office has been engaging with the city to attempt to resolve outstanding questions and concerns. Our review is ongoing,” said Hazel Crampton-Hays, press secretary for the Comptroller.

Dozens of concerned Lower Manhattan residents cried out, “Save East River park!” Photo by Dean Moses