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By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter

MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Despite criticism and petitions, the New York City Subcommittee on Landmarks voted on Monday (November 4th) to approve a $1.45 billion plan to demolish and rebuild East River Park in Lower Manhattan for better flood control.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to keep residents safe from flooding with the project, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to keep residents safe from flooding with the project, photo by Mayoral Photography Office.

The East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project aims to reduce flood risk and sea level rise from East 25th to Montgomery Street, says the city government.

“The project design intends to integrate flood protection into the community fabric, improving access to the waterfront rather than walling off the neighborhood,” explains the city on its website.

City Hall’s multi-billion-dollar plan calls for the creation of a complex network of flip-up flood gates, earthen berms, and other mechanisms to prevent flooding in the area.

City officials say they have been working hand-in-hand with community partners and residents to identify the best ways to meet the challenges of climate change, including sea level rise and more frequent, intense storms.

“When in place, the ESCR Project will provide improved coastal protection to more than 110,000 vulnerable New Yorkers through 2.4 miles of enhanced waterfront, ecology, and urban spaces,” added government officials.

Many community groups, however, have spoken out against the current project. East River Park Action is one of them.

“We delivered 8,500 petitions from three grassroots groups. We have a letter signed by more than twenty groups. Most everyone in our Lower East Side/East Village opposes the East Side Coastal Resiliency Plan to demolish East River Park since there are better ways to gain flood control,” said the group on their webpage.

Crowd outside NYC city council building protests latest project to contain sea level rise around East River Park, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
Crowd outside NYC city council building protests latest project to contain sea level rise around East River Park, photo by Steve Giles/East River Park Action.

“We’ve been trying to tell our City Council members for a year – in overwhelming numbers – that we need a better, less destructive plan, but we are not heard,” added the entity.

The group is against the project for several reasons, among them is the destruction of the greenery.

“Bulldozing 1,000 mature trees and all the greenery in the park is environmentally destructive – a way to speed climate change not just in the long term but in the short term for our neighborhood,” it argues.

The group also says that parts of the low-income neighborhood will have no defense against storm surges during the years of construction, ‘not even the modicum of protection afforded by the park during Hurricane Sandy in 2012’.

According to non-governmental organization Sea Level Rise Org, the sea level around lower Manhattan is nine inches higher than it was in 1950. Its rate of rise has accelerated over the last ten years and it’s now rising by one inch every seven to eight years.

After Monday’s meeting NYC’s Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the creation of an advisory group to answer concerns about the ESCR plan.

“The East Side Coastal Resiliency Project will protect New Yorkers for years to come, and at every step of the way, we will continue to ensure the community is kept informed of progress and that their voice is heard,” said Mayor de Blasio.

According to non-governmental organization Sea Level Rise Org, the sea level around lower Manhattan is nine inches higher than it was in 1950. Its rate of rise has accelerated over the last ten years and it’s now rising by one inch every seven to eight years.

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