City Comptroller Scott Stringer is holding off on approving the main construction contract in the city’s effort to rebuild East River Park and make it flood-proof.
Earlier this week, Stringer sent the contract back to the city’s Department of Design and Construction seeking information on two issues. The decision came a day after opponents of the project rallied against it in front of Stringer’s Manhattan office.
The decision further delays construction on the $1.27 billion plan to level the 58-acre park and rebuild it eight feet taller, turning it into a flood barrier for the surrounding neighborhood. The new park will also include added handicap accessibility and, following pushback from critics of the project, preserve its famous amphitheater and the beloved Lower East Side Ecology Center’s composting area.
The city had expected to begin razing a portion of the park earlier this summer. The project will proceed in two phases, preserving access to about half the park throughout the estimated five-year construction process.
"As is the case with every contract, the Comptroller’s Office has conducted a thorough review and engaged with the City through a series of questions and answers to determine compliance with all applicable rules and regulations pertaining to this $1.2 billion contract,” Hazel Crampton-Hays, the press secretary for the comptroller, said in a statement.
Crampton-Hays said that there were two outstanding issues unresolved from a month of back-and-forth discussions with the DDC: whether all the construction companies involved in the contract had completed the necessary disclosure forms required by the city, and if the city could increase their goal for the proportion of women- and minority-owned businesses receiving subcontracts through the project.
“It’s not unusual for the Comptroller to request additional information about a contract,” Ian Michaels, a spokesperson for the DDC, said in an emailed statement. “We have responded to more than 50 questions already and we are answering these questions as well, and we fully expect that the contract will be registered.”
Opponents of the project claimed Stringer’s decision as a victory, though he has not indicated that he opposes the reconstruction plan.
“We thank Comptroller Stringer, for staying true to his beliefs and for sending this ill-conceived environmentally disastrous plan back to the DDC,” the group East River Park Action said in a press release Thursday. “There are many more outstanding questions to be answered.”
Opponents of the reconstruction plan have criticized the raze-and-raise plan for the park, which was developed without community input and will see about 1,000 mature trees cut down.
Christopher Marte, the likely next council member for Manhattan’s 1st district, which borders on the park, joined the protest in front of Stringer's office.
Marte said in an interview that he has been troubled by the city’s lack of transparency during the planning process, which led East River Park Action to sue the city for a key report on the project, only to receive it in a heavily redacted form. He also opposes the project because it would interrupt access to green space for residents.
Carlina Rivera, the council member for the city's second district, which includes the park, supports the reconstruction plan.
“As we get more concessions, as we learn more about the plan, we should be asking for more,” Marte said. “We should be trying to save as much of the park as we can.”