East Side Coastal Resiliency


Last month Dutch consulting firm Deltares released an independent review, contracted by the City Council and Manhattan Borough President for the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR). This week the Mayor announced the formation of an advisory group composed of local stakeholders to provide community input. Construction is set to begin in Spring 2020.

The ESCR is a segment of the BIG U, a protective system wrapping around Manhattan's coastline beginning at W 57th Street, down to The Battery, and then back up to East 42nd Street, proposed by Bjarke Ingels Group in 2014.

Future (2050) probability floodplain. Source: NYC Flood Hazard Mapper

Future (2050) probability floodplain. Source: NYC Flood Hazard Mapper

The current ESCR plan stretches between the Lower East Side's Montgomery Street to East 25th Street, protecting 2.2 miles of Manhattan's East Side and 110,000 residents from a 100-year flood event and up to 30 inches of sea-level rise. The $1.45 billion proposals would elevate East River Park with 8-10 feet of landfill and floodwalls at the water's edge, creating a new park above. Surrounding the elevated park, a system of flood barriers would protect the adjacent neighborhoods from seal level rise.

Local residents have expressed concerns about closing large sections of the park during construction, demolishing park amenities, and the loss of trees. 258 trees have already been removed from East River Park due to flooding and 991 more trees would need to be buried under the proposal.

Deltares' report lists a set of recommendations for the proposal, which they say does not go far enough:

  • A strategic study on long-term future transportation scenarios of the FDR Drive, including options for placing green decking over the FDR Drive, which would allow for an extension of East River Park.

  • A more transparent process so city agencies may rebuild trust and gain the support of the community.

  • Monitoring of air quality, soil quality, dust, noise and vibration during construction.

  • Study the area north of 25th Street where the project area ends and if additional flood protection will be needed.

  • Phased construction within the park so that portions remain open to the public.

  • Include two additional feet of fill to avoid having to do so in the 2050s when sea level rise reaches this level (a recent report estimated 9.5 feet of sea-level rise in NYC at the end of the century).