BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Updated Feb. 14, 5 a.m.: Claiming that Carlina Rivera has “ignored” community concerns about the city’s draconian plans for East River Park, the Grand Street Democrats declined to endorse her for reelection.
The stunning snub came Monday night as the Lower East Side club was considering an endorsement for City Council District 2. Currently, Rivera is running unopposed in the June 22 Democratic primary.
The de Blasio administration’s East Side Coastal Resiliency plan calls for burying East River Park under 8 to 10 feet of new soil to raise the park about the floodplain. However, a wide swath of local residents strongly oppose the plan. Last year, a community lawsuit was filed against the scheme by 20 local organizations, including East River Park ACTION, and 70 individuals.
October saw graffiti artists launch an “art attack” against the park’s amphitheater as another way to try to head off the park’s destruction.
The opponents support an earlier concept, by Rebuild By Design, that simply called for an earthen berm to be built along the east side of the F.D.R. Drive.
But Rivera — within whose district all of East River Park lies — is a staunch backer of the E.S.C.R. project. She has faced harsh criticism from the the plan’s foes, including a negative poster campaign that labeled her and the mayor “Destroyers of East River Park.”
District Leader Lee Berman, a Grand Street Democrats member, explained to The Village Sun the thinking behind the club’s vote on Rivera.
“Many of us appreciate Councilmember Rivera’s efforts to represent our diverse community,” he said. “During Monday night’s Grand Street Democrats endorsement meeting, an overwhelming majority of members expressed serious concerns about the plan for East River Park and what many see as the continued lack of transparency by the city. Many in attendance felt that Councilwoman Rivera has ignored these issues, even after they have repeatedly been brought to her attention.
“We hope that if she is reelected, she will spend the next two years building bridges and being responsive to the needs of the entire community.”
Asked for comment on the Democratic club’s diss, Rivera countered, in a statement, that the E.S.C.R. plan is “urgent” and that her reps keep in regular contact with constituents about it. She called the $1.45 billion mega-project one of her priorities.
“While some continue to seek a life-threatening delay of a project that would protect thousands of New Yorkers from rising seas and flooding,” Rivera said, “my office and I have ensured we don’t risk further hurricane seasons without protection, while also pushing the city relentlessly on transparency and improvements to their plan.
“In addition to ensuring that the park remains partially open during construction, that noise standards are enforced, and that strict air quality and soil monitoring is conducted, we secured a myriad of mitigation efforts — including a new waterfront recreation area at Pier 42 — as part of a significant commitment package for districtwide improvements.
“My team speaks regularly with constituents regarding concerns and commitments secured,” she added, “in addition to following up on inquires from the E.S.C.R. Community Advisory Group and our local community boards, including to make sure that Section 3 hiring at the New York City Housing Authority is a success and that agency information requests are honored as soon as possible.
“E.S.C.R. remains urgent,” Rivera stressed, “and I will continue work on this issue as one of my many priorities, and I’ll do this with all stakeholders. I’m looking forward to ensuring city leaders remain accountable and that we complete this generational protection project for our community as soon as possible.”
At a mayoral candidates forum hosted by the Downtown Democratic clubs last weekend, Shaun Donovan, the city’s former commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development, said he would have kept the Rebuild By Design plan. Donovan accused Mayor de Blasio and his administration of letting the resiliency project fall into a “black hole,” after which they emerged with the plan to raze and rebuild the 58-acre East River Park.
This isn’t the first time Rivera has been rebuffed by a local Democratic club during the endorsement process. Back in November, after a heated internal debate, the Downtown Independent Democrats initially voted not to endorse the councilmember for reelection until she more fully explained her position on upzoning in historic districts.
Rivera, whose district includes Noho, had told the club that she supports the Soho/Noho rezoning, which would include multiple historic districts. But when pressed to state her position on whether she supports upzoning for historic districts, in general, including other ones around the city, she did not directly answer the question.
D.I.D. members hoped Rivera would subsequently meet again with club members to clarify her position on the hot-button issue. D.I.D. ultimately endorsed her.
Club members who had made an issue over Rivera’s failure to flesh out her position said it was important for her to do so because she could be the City Council’s next speaker.
In their other endorsements on Monday night, Grand Street Democrats backed Scott Stringer for mayor, Jumaane Williams for reelection as public advocate, Brad Lander for comptroller, Lindsey Boylan for borough president, Alvin Bragg for Manhattan district attorney, Chris Marte for Council District 1 and Caroline Laskow and Lee Berman for reelection as Lower East Side district leaders.