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City Hall tree lockdown ends…for now; East River Park activists warn Johnson of more to come

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | After nearly 12 hours locked together around a tree trunk in City Hall Park, two women ended their protest action Tuesday evening.

JK Canepa and jmac began their lockdown just west of the Tweed Courthouse at 7 a.m. and unlocked at 6:30 p.m.

They and fellow protesters there with them demanded that City Council Speaker Corey Johnson communicate with them on whether he will allow an emergency Council hearing on the fate of East River Park.

The city is poised to start clear-cutting the 60-acre park’s 1,000 trees, many of which are 80 years old. Under phase one of the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, 60 percent of the park would be buried under tons of infill soil eight to 10 feet high to raise the park above the floodplain.

Despite East River Park activists’ ongoing pleas, Johnson has been silent on the issue.

The activists claimed that a mayoral representative on Tuesday told them that Johnson was out of town. But a spokesperson for the speaker told The Village Sun that was incorrect.

“I don’t know where they got that,” he said. “That’s not true. Corey’s in town.”

The Village Sun checked again with the Johnson spokesperson Wednesday afternoon but there was still no comment yet on whether the Council speaker would consent to having the hearing. Councilmembers Justin Brannan and James Gennaro, who respectively head the Council’s Committee on Resiliency and Waterfronts and Committee on Environmental Protection, have both asked Johnson to greenlight the hearing on the beloved green space.

Canepa said while they never heard from the Speaker’s Office during the protest action, a representative of Mayor de Blasio did speak with them.

“We had communication with a liaison from the Mayor’s Office, who came to speak with us about scheduling a meeting with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson,” she said.

While this lockdown has ended, the activist warned that, if Johnson denies the call for the emergency hearing, he better get used to the sight of people chained up to trees outside City Hall.

“We will continue to pressure the speaker for an oversight hearing,” she said, “with lockdowns and other measures until he allows the oversight hearing.”

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