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City Council candidate Allie Ryan arrested trying to block demolition of East River Park

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Updated Nov. 1, 11:20 p.m.: City Council candidate Allie Ryan and another woman were arrested by police Monday around 2 p.m. as they and a group of protesters were trying to block demolition of the East River Park tennis courts, part of the start of the East Side Coastal Resiliency project.

After a brief standoff with a smaller group of officers, a large force of 40 police eventually descended on the tennis courts.

“You are interfering with planned construction authorized by the Parks Department,” an officer blared through an electric bullhorn. “If you do not move you will be subject to arrest.”

Allie Ryan being arrested in East River Park. (Photo by Chris Ryan)

As protesters chanted, “Save this park!” and “The people united will never be defeated!” the first-time candidate, who lives in the East Village, and another protester, Alice O’Malley, were slapped into plastic cuffs and led out of the park. Police said they were being taken to the Seventh Precinct.

“Thank you, Allie!” the activists cheered, with whoops and ululations.

“You should be arresting de Blasio!” one of them shouted at the cops.

Video by Chris Ryan

A police spokesperson did not immediately have further details on the arrests and charges.

Overseeing the police response was Assistant Chief Stephen Hughes, commander of Patrol Borough Manhattan South, who was the main speaker at the big police-led meeting on Washington Square South this past June.

Before the cops cuffed the two women, Ryan stressed why it was important for her to take precious time away from campaigning on the election’s next-to-last day to join the protest.

“It’s frustrating,” she said. “I’m running because I want to answer the people who live in this district. If our councilmember had voted [against the resiliency plan] with the people, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. I probably wouldn’t be running today if she had sided with the community.”

Even before the arrests were made, as the protesters sat together in civil disobedience, workers were already starting to chainsaw down the metal posts holding up the chain-link fencing around the tennis courts, readying the area for the total obliteration to come.

East River Park activists are desperately putting their bodies on the line in hopes of stopping the destruction of their beloved park.

Monday morning, a day before Election Day and the first official day of “work operations” for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, a group of park lovers, including Ryan, gathered at the park’s amphitheater at sunrise.

They soon converged at the tennis courts, just north of the Williamsburg Bridge. This is one of the first spots in the park that the de Blasio administration has said it will dig up for the multiyear $1.3 billion project.

East River Park activists, including City Council candidate Allie Ryan, fourth from left, did civil disobedience Monday morning to prevent the destruction of the park’s tennis courts. (Photo by Emily Johnson)
Police were threatening to make arrests. (Photo by Emily Johnson)

Around 10:15 a.m., police started threatening to make arrests of the activists as the latter sat on the courts in civil disobedience holding protest signs.

As of 11:30 a.m., the protesters were still on the courts and no arrests had been made. Joining the police at the scene were workers from the Department of Design and Construction and the Parks Department.

Ryan, who is running for City Council in the general election on Tues., Nov. 2, is the candidate of the Neighborhood Party, a third-party line she created to run as an independent. Incumbent Carlina Rivera won the Democratic Party primary in June.

Protesters linked arms to keep construction vehicles from entering the East River Park tennis courts. (Courtesy Save East River Park)

Ryan, who says she is not hung up on party labels and is an environmentalist above all, has made saving East River Park her top campaign issue.

Rivera and Mayor de Blasio, on the other hand, are staunch supporters of the so-called “elevatated park” plan, which would take at least five years to complete and put around half of the park off limits to the public at any given time. The activists warn that — knowing how slowly the city usually operates — the project would likely drag on much longer than merely five years.

As workers dismantled the fence at the tennis courts, the protesters formed a human wall. (Courtesy Save East River Park)

Councilmember Rivera says E.S.C.R. is essential to protect the surrounding community from another Sandy-like flood.

But Ryan and the protesters say a far less-extreme, less-destructive plan, the so-called “berms plan” — that would not cut down the park’s nearly 1,000 mature trees — would work, and they are distraught that the city is supporting the current plan.

After Ryan’s arrest, the activists protested at Rivera’s district office, then went to the Seventh Precinct on Pitt Street, where they waited for Ryan and O’Malley’s release. The two activists were freed later that evening.

Allie Ryan, right, and Alice O’Malley after being released from the Seventh Precinct on Monday evening. (Photo by George Rodriguez)

Arthur Schwartz, the attorney representing plaintiffs in a community lawsuit to block the coastal-resiliency project, said the city has been vague on the dates of when demolition work would actually start in the park. An E.S.C.R. community advisory issued Oct. 20 states that on Nov. 1, “closures within the park and pedestrian detours” will start, in preparation for demolition work. Schwartz said the city has indicated it wants to start digging up the tennis courts sometime later this month. Activists say it could be in three weeks from now.

But, clearly, things are moving very rapidly, as could be seen by the workers already chainsawing down the tennis courts’ fencing first thing early Monday morning.

26 Comments

  1. A. Colby A. Colby November 1, 2021

    ALLIE RYAN IS NOT FOOLING AROUND! She is running to defend the neighborhood and the city from rapacious development, and has put herself on the line! VOTE FOR ALLIE!!!

    • LES3025 LES3025 November 1, 2021

      This was a publicity stunt so in a sense she was absolutely fooling around. But whatever.

      • Eileen Myles Eileen Myles November 1, 2021

        Good politics is not a stunt. Carlina’s “I come from the neighborhood” is a stunt. She lives in the E. 20s and her base is corporate. She has no message except “I’m Carlina and I want to be speaker.” Politics is a stunt for her ego. I think Allie cares about the park. No stunt, sincere engagement.

        • LES3025 LES3025 November 2, 2021

          “Stunt.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

          Anyway, your web site says you split your time between New York and Marfa, TX. Maybe you shouldn’t be the one deciding whether people’s homes get flooded so you get to walk in the park next time you’re here.

          • kzl kzl November 2, 2021

            LES3025 — I worked on the original resiliency plan — the one funded by the Feds. This de Blasio disaster is political and is an incompetent solution to a very serious problem. The feds would not have given $$$ for this mess.
            Your home will flood again with what is being built here. This solution is not protection — it is bs.

          • LES3025 LES3025 November 2, 2021

            KZL — Not sure what you’re talking about. The feds have given money for this plan. And if it isn’t used by September 2023, much of it will expire. The plan isn’t perfect, but it’s something that is feasible now and will help people.

            Most of the people here complaining came to the process very late, don’t live in the flood zone, and are just having a tantrum because they weren’t consulted and they think their voices are the only legitimate ones.

        • KZL KZL November 2, 2021

          You got Carlina nailed! She has grown up a political hack and a mean person to boot. She has no one fooled except of course the Democratic corporation that runs the city

          • LES3025 LES3025 November 2, 2021

            I’ve got an idea. Carlina can set out her position, Allie can set out hers, and then people can vote for which one they think is better. Maybe we can even do it today!

      • Carol from East 5th Street Carol from East 5th Street November 2, 2021

        If you knew anything at all about Allie Ryan you would know she is not “fooling around.” She is a mother of two and is absolutely dedicated to social and environmental justice, unlike her political opponent, who is part of the de Blasio machine and more interested in promoting developers and real estate interests.

        • LES3025 LES3025 November 2, 2021

          Not sure what being a mother has to do with anything. Does that make her uniquely qualified in flood prevention and landscape architecture?

          You live on 5th Street. Your rent-controlled apartment isn’t going to flood next time. I don’t know where Allie lives, but I’m going to guess it also isn’t in the flood zone. But you’ve both decided that you know best and that other people’s homes should be at risk in the future so that you don’t lose access to the park for a few years.

  2. JK Canepa JK Canepa November 1, 2021

    Allie is the kind of candidate we can trust — she means it when she says she wouldn’t have had to run if Rivera had stood for her own community. Most people we’ve met in the park are shocked at the City’s plan to remove our real flood protection and destroy so much life and beauty. When has any project this town has started ever come in on time? Certainly this one will drag on and on. We all see the sheer mediocrity of this administration with its Zero Vision. What is the recourse when our voices fall on deaf ears? Allie and the others who resisted today know the answer.

  3. Rosemary Ryan Rosemary Ryan November 1, 2021

    Allie has put herself on the line for all residents. The thought of East River Park closing for over five years, it’s just demoralizing. Where are the children supposed to bike and play? The city should have gone with a plan that would not close the park for such a long period of time.

  4. Lucy Lucy November 1, 2021

    Calling them “park lovers” make them sounds trite. These are people putting their bodies on the line to stop ecocide — the total destruction of a diverse ecosystem of trees, insects and birds that serve everyone. Yes, de Blasio and Rivera should be held criminally liable for destroying a valuable ecosystem and putting the health of the community in jeopardy. There is no science or scientist behind the destruction of the park that they are now embarking on. Not one environmentalist, ecologist or scientist was involved in the secret discussions that took place that led to the decision to change to this destructive plan from a practical safe plan that would have protected the area.

  5. Marcella Marcella November 1, 2021

    Kudos to these people standing up so bravely to the wretched ESCR plan to destroy a beautiful living park, which will negatively impact the air, health and well-being of the community for years. Shame on de Blasio and Rivera for their greenwashing, their divisiveness and their lack of transparency and accountability. Shame on all of the politicians who are allowing this so-called “flood plan” (without interim flood protection) to happen against everything we know about climate change, ecology, air pollution, community health or care for their constituents. When our city gets hotter, dirtier and sicker because of the lack of real nature, we will know exactly who to blame.

  6. Alexis Adler Alexis Adler November 2, 2021

    As a resident of the LES for over 4 decades, this de Blasio tragedy is a land grab for developers. I was here during Sandy and worked at NYU Hospital where the waters breached at 34th and 36th Sts.; there is no wall going up there, or at Wall St., where it flooded as well, along with 18th St and Ave C, but not at the current park. If they want to build a wall, it could be built along the FDR and allow the 1,000 trees to remain to absorb water that comes from torrential rains like Ida this summer, as well as high tides. This taking place during the COP 26 climate summit is especially disgraceful. Who would trust a country such as ours!

    • LES3025 LES3025 November 2, 2021

      The LES is getting necessary investment in flood protection before other neighborhoods (which also need it) and you are making it seem like a bad thing. Absolutely bizarre.

    • Johanna Schwarzbeck Johanna Schwarzbeck November 2, 2021

      I totally agree, we need the trees to absorb water if it would actually flood, but even during storm Sandy, there was no problem with flooding in the LES, or for that matter in the East River Park. I had an art opening on this day on Orchard Street. No ESCR!!!

  7. Elizabeth Ruf Elizabeth Ruf November 2, 2021

    Hooray for Allie and Alice! I’m so sad to lose the historic tennis court. I used to go with Marlis Momber to play at dawn before the courts opened for scheduled time slots and just went back the other day to play with Karl before sunrise. I teach and couldn’t attend yesterday’s protest, but my heart is with ERPA. Thank you, Lincoln, for writing consistently and accurately about the fight to save East River Park. And thanks to you also for being there on the ground to cover this and many other community actions!

  8. EV appreciator EV appreciator November 2, 2021

    Deeply appreciate this action of Allie’s. Getting arrested is no stunt. If it were, it was planned by the developers… knowing it was the day before an election when all eyes and energy are on other forums, and one is certainly not garranteed any press… thank you. Village Sun!
    There was another efficient, less costly plan that would have kept our 1,000 beautiful trees, living. This smells much more like the swooping in of developers throughout the city… real estate repeatedly taking advantage, and certainly of Covid-19.
    Thank you. Vote

    • LES3025 LES3025 November 2, 2021

      This is nonsensical conspiracy mongering. Developers don’t have anything to do with this and there’s no plan to develop the park.

  9. Chris Flash Chris Flash November 2, 2021

    Aside from enriching politically connected contractors with the federal money that will find its way into many other pockets, the much larger plan by city gentrifiers is to create a new East River Park with new amenities for the benefit of incoming monied transients who will take over city housing along the FDR Drive.

    The city has already handed chunks of city housing projects over to real estate vultures like Donald Cappoccia, who are creating “market rate” units in apts formerly inhabited by the poor. The plan is to get rid of poorer residents permanently.

    The dope who keeps attacking posters here doesn’t get that the next flood is coming well before East River Park is raised ten feet (what an absurdly retarded idea!) over the next 5-10 years, which will make the current project USELESS. But, as long as the feds are footing the bill, who cares, right? Gotta spend that money before 2023, so who cares what plan they follow, right?

    The only real solution, which I have seen done in other flood-prone cities, is a FLOODWALL that can be built along the FDR Drive. The park can absorb flood waters that will eventually recede as they did after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the waters will not get past the FDR into LES neighborhoods. Such a plan would not use up the tremendous federal dollars being offered, which may explain why the city has refused to consider it.

    Unlike her opponent, ALLIE RYAN is NOT a career politician backed by a political club that cuts deals and gets $$$$ from developers and other real estate vultures, which it serves so well. Allie is a wife and a mother of two daughters who lives IN THE FLOOD ZONE. Allie CARES about our community. Why ELSE would she be running?? Unlike her opponent, Allie is IN this with the rest of us.

    That is why she got MY vote.

    –Chris Flash

    • LES3025 LES3025 November 2, 2021

      Oh wow, we’ve got another engineering expert who knows this plan won’t work. And one who calls things “retarded” at that. Hopefully your engineering expertise is current and it’s only your slurs that are from the early 2000s.

      It’s kind of sad and pathetic that you people see the nefarious “developers” behind everything (people used to just come out and say “Jews,” but I guess that’s been updated too). Your comment about developers “creating ‘market rate’ units in apts formerly inhabited by the poor,” just shows the ignorance. The poor, many of whom live in market-rate apartments, are being pushed out because we haven’t built enough housing to accommodate the city’s growth, so more well-off people are choosing to live in the housing formerly occupied by the poor, like most of the Lower East Side tenements. Developers don’t do this; landlords do. Developers build new housing, which would actually help the problem.

      It’s notable and not coincidental that the people who oppose ESCR are largely the same people who oppose much-needed housing development and rezoning. That really tells you all you need to know about whether they have anything constructive to contribute.

      • The Village Sun The Village Sun Post author | November 3, 2021

        LES3025, are you a member of Open New York?

        • LES3025 LES3025 November 3, 2021

          I’m not a member, but I am familiar with their work and would say I am ideologically aligned.

  10. Carol Yost Carol Yost November 3, 2021

    LES3025, I wish you’d leave the other Commenters alone. It would be useful to know who you are, as you attack well-meaning people who have nothing to gain by protesting except by possibly saving their beloved park. These are not “well-connected” people; they’re obviously park lovers. Your attacks are ill-motivated. They have too sharp an edge to be convincingly, respectfully, expressing another point of view. What’s your angle, really?

    Full disclosure: My sympathy is with the park activists, although I don’t live near it. Of course, that leaves me wide open for LES3025’s scorn. It breaks my heart to see the possible loss of those 1,000 trees and the park people love. I’ve read all the arguments pro and con, and I don’t see why the City couldn’t have gone along with the plan originally proposed.

    • LES3025 LES3025 November 3, 2021

      You’ll have to trust me that I’m just someone who lives in the LES and has views on local politics (and also works a desk job that gives me time to post). I think I’m pretty transparent about what my views are and the basis for them.

      I don’t really think I’m being all that sharp, except maybe to the guy who called me a dope (and that’s a guy who who recently organized a concert in Thompkins Square Park that was apparently attended by Nazis, so I don’t mind being sharp with him). But at the same time, I don’t think posting on the internet is going to convince people of anything so I’m not really trying to do that either. I mostly started doing it because I have read these neighborhood blogs for years to keep up on neighborhood info and got tired of the constant NIMBY editorial perspective. I’ve found that many commenters share that perspective and I like to push back on it. That’s really my whole angle here.

      On this particular issue, I truly believe the people you call “park activists” are doing something very selfish and destructive. I know they don’t see it that way, but the people who do things like this never do. My bigger problem is with a system that allows them to do that rather than with them individually, but it’s the individuals who comment on blog posts.

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