BY PAT ARNOW | Meet at the amphitheater at 6:30 a.m. Monday to celebrate the life of East River Park and protest the imminent demise of our friend and protector.
The city plans to start chopping down the healthy magnificent 82-year-old oaks along with everything else in the park. The trees will be chipped into oblivion. Their roots will be grubbed out. These trees survived Hurricane Sandy. They will not survive New York City’s malevolent East Side Coastal Resiliency project.
Ever since the park’s complete destruction was announced in the fall of 2018, thousands of people, mostly from our Lower East Side and East Village, have earnestly and fervently been civically engaged to gain a flood plan that would retain and improve our park. We had good evidence that better, more truly resilient plans were possible that would gain us the same flood control. We uncovered more good evidence after many Freedom of Information requests and appeals.
It did not matter. No amount of reason and hearty civic engagement could move city officials. None of our testimonies, petitions, protests, e-mails and phone calls mattered. The politicians and city agencies were determined to push this fatally flawed plan down our throats and were just annoyed when we loudly choked.
When this project runs over budget and takes years longer than scheduled, when we flood from a big rainfall or a storm during the years of construction because the city refused to provide any interim flood-protection measures, when the loss of trees and addition of a million tons of fill fouls our already compromised air and causes even more upper respiratory diseases than the high rates we already suffer, when promised alternative park spaces are so inadequate that living in our neighborhood becomes hazardous and ugly with no refuge, when the giant levee proves inadequate against storm surges within a generation from now, when climate change unleashes greater and greater fury on us, in part because of this massive resource-intensive, biodiversity-destroying environmental disaster foisted upon us, it will give us no satisfaction to say, I told you so.
City officials, you can suck through paper straws and recycle your paper and plastic to do your minuscule part to fend off climate change, but that won’t mean a thing against the loss of 1,000 trees that cool and cleanse our air. You have unleashed environmental destruction on our neighborhood and our planet. You are responsible, Carlina Rivera, Keith Powers, Margaret Chin, Gale Brewer, the entire City Council who voted for this miserable plan (except Inez Barron), the honchos at the Department of Design and Construction, the Department of Transportation, Con Ed and, of course, Bill de Blasio. East River Park will haunt you.
We who tried to protect our wonderful park from a stupid plan will gather to honor this great park Monday at dawn. Thank you to everyone who has been part of this fight and for all you have done for three years. You are not alone. Keep fighting.
See you in the park.
Arnow is co-founder, East River Park ACTION, a nonprofit devoted to “truly resilient flood control” for East River Park.