City officials say the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project is on schedule and on budget, despite concerns the pandemic would hinder the construction of flood protections and the redevelopment of lower Manhattan's eastern shoreline.
The $1.5 billion project was first announced four years ago under then-Mayor Bill de Blasio in response to 2012's Hurricane Sandy. The storm and flooding killed 44 New Yorkers and caused $19 billion in damage citywide, some of it to buildings and infrastructure in lower Manhattan.
What You Need To Know
- City officials say the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project is on schedule and on budget, despite concerns the pandemic would hinder the construction of flood protections and the redevelopment of lower Manhattan's eastern shoreline
- The $1.5 billion project was first announced four years ago under then-Mayor Bill de Blasio in response to 2012's Hurricane Sandy
- While the northern part of the roughly 2.5 miles of flood protection system is nearly complete, 70% of the project remains incomplete. It’s now slated for completion in 2026
Lower East Side resident Michael Mateo says he loves fishing in the East River. He teaches neighborhood kids the skills they need to pick up rods rather than guns.
“I always go here, no matter what. I grew up here for 44 years,” Mateo said. “[They] find something else better to do than doing violence in the street."
His favorite fishing holes, like Stuyvesant Cove Landing, have undergone a major transformation due to the resiliency project.
“It’s looking much better, because from here all the way down, it looked grungy and everything,” he said.
Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Thomas Foley oversees the project from Manhattan's East 25th Street to Montgomery Street. To protect from flooding, the city is building parts of the ground 9 feet higher, and underneath are levees and flood walls.
“Part of this project is obviously to rebuild it, and rebuild it looking forward, from a sustainability standpoint, from a resiliency standpoint,” Foley said.
Park spaces like Stuyvesant Cove are being upgraded to make them more resilient, with hurricane-proof benches and greenery. In the southern portion of the project, parts of East River Park itself will sit 16 feet above sea level, and flood gates are are being installed in several parts of the East River, designed to close as destructive storms approach.
“We have 18 gates. And what the city does is, we coordinate when the next storm hit," Foley said. "Some of the gates are closed three days prior, two days prior. It all depends on the location."
Harriet Hirshorn, who has helped lead the fight against this plan, would have preferred a different proposal.
“The loss of the trees really [is] forever, and the loss of this sort of magical place, this is also forever,” Hirshorn said. The Lower East Side resident said the loss of greenspace and trees, some of them more than a half-century old, are casualties of the construction.
“A lot of them were really hallowed out, so it was time for them to come down. It would have happened regardless,” Foley said. The city said it will replace the trees with with 2,000 drought-resistant saplings. Another 1,000 will be potted around the community by the city's Department of Parks and Recreation.
“It’s about attracting people to the waterfront, making use of this beautiful scene," Foley said. "But then it’s also about that purpose of that flood protection."
While the northern part of the roughly 2.5 miles of flood protection system is nearly complete, 70% of the project remains incomplete. Foley said changes, adjusting to community concerns, added two years to the project. It’s now slated for completion in 2026.
“It’s somewhere you can relax now," Mateo said. "Before, you couldn’t relax."
Mateo’s only wish is to have fishing rod holders. That’s something the commissioner admits would be a nice touch to add in the future.