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L.E.S. Dem club snubs Rivera for ‘ignoring concerns’ on East River Park plan

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.”

Foes of the East Side Coastal Resiliency plan have pilloried the mayor and Carlina Rivera with posters on the Lower East Side. (Photo by Harriet Hirshorn)

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.

The Grand Street Democrats’ slate of endorsed candidates on Mon., Feb. 8. Carlina Rivera was not among them.

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.

14 Comments

  1. Tree Tree February 12, 2021

    What do you mean, “…my office and I have ensured we don’t risk further hurricane seasons without protection”? The ESCR has already delayed its start by a year, and there will be NO protection for years to come as the park is demolished. You accepted the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management’s study that said that no Interim Flood Protection would be helpful in a Superstorm Sandy-type storm. Right, but it did say there could be protections for at least parts of the neighborhood for 15-year-type storm surges — a much more likely scenario. Stop accepting any crappy excuse the city gives to run all over our neighborhood with whatever the hell it wants to do. Ask harder.

  2. Deborah Mills Deborah Mills February 12, 2021

    The notion that we can either have East River Park OR have flood protection is simply not true. We need and deserve both.

    What is life-threatening is that the ESCR has ZERO interim flood protection until completed. ESCR’s 5-year project period is unrealistic, so for years to come we’ll be at even worse risk of a Sandy-type flood: What if a storm hits us after the park is razed or while new landfill is still just a pile of dirt?

    The 3-year-long, original, community-involved plan of berms would have been nearing completion by now had it gone forward in 2018 (costing half as much as ESCR, and not needlessly destroying East River Park). We never even got to look at the idea of covering the FDR Drive and adding parkland on top, because it was “too expensive.” But somehow ESCR wasn’t?

    The real life-threatening delay is this corrupt ESCR plan, which has NO interim flood protection, which leaves us wide open to the next storm for who knows how many years, given that its 5-year construction period is highly unrealistic.

    And this doesn’t even touch on the truly life-threatening results of destroying an entire park & about 1,000 mature trees during a pandemic, during a worsening climate crisis when every large tree is a treasure, and during a fiscal crisis when city funds are desperately needed elsewhere. Our air pollution and temperatures will increase without those mature trees, all while particulate matter in the air during the years of construction add air pollution to a neighborhood where we already suffer elevated levels of asthma and pulmonary disease (both linked to elevated covid deaths, by the way).

    The only reason given by ESCR’s politician promoters was a Value Engineering Report that apparently never existed. So killing the park and doubling the cost and timeline of the flood project was based on a lie. We deserve better, and we deserve more than canned responses from our elected representatives.

  3. Harriet Hirshorn Harriet Hirshorn February 12, 2021

    How misleading! Thank you Grand Street Dems for not endorsing her. What a disappointment she is. “…a life-threatening delay of a project that would protect thousands of New Yorkers from rising seas and flooding,” Really? Sandy happened 8 years ago. How many people died? COVID is happening right now. How many people died? Thousands die in our country every day, and bad air and pollution are contributing factors to poor health outcomes, before after and during COVID. Rivera sees only storm surge. That is her entire definition of climate change. How can she be so blind as to not see that killing a thousand old trees that clean our air and actually protect these neighborhoods from flooding with their massive root systems will have negative impacts on the effects of climate change? Is she stupid? Or is something else going on with this fishy project…?

  4. Marie Cenival Marie Cenival February 12, 2021

    Indeed, what a disappointment to see Rivera guilt-trip her opponents this way. Now they are “life-threatening” utopianists? She was the first to criticize the sudden and unjustified erasing of the previous more consensual plan by the Mayor’s office and Parks department in December 2018. She went as far as to mobilize a whole crowd around her as she asked for their support during a special City Council hearing that she herself demanded — in protest against this brutal move by the city! Only to turn her back on her supporters, later on, under who knows what kind of pressure / promises? Mrs. Rivera compromised herself in plain sight. Shameful breach of trust.

  5. Barbara Katz Rothman Barbara Katz Rothman February 12, 2021

    This is just so wrong — Rivera would leave the area without any flood protection for the years it takes to destroy the park, kill a thousand trees, and build up a new one on the graveyard of the old. Trees clean the air, protect the children in particular who live alongside the path of destruction she endorsed. There are other ways of doing this, ways the community supported. Let’s move forward with a plan that saves lives.

  6. Alicia Resnick Alicia Resnick February 12, 2021

    I find Councilmember Rivera’s comments troubling and disingenuous. She speaks of “some seeking a life-threatening delay” to the ESCR plan, while she supports the replacement of a community-approved plan, which in 2014 was projected to have been implemented by 2018. (Whether or not that timeline would have held, it would have most likely been completed before the current plan’s flood protection will even be started.) She has not effectively engaged at all with local stakeholders — the vast majority who are opposed to the current plan — including the 14,000 signers of petitions voicing that opposition. She has neither held City officials accountable nor accepted responsibility herself. At a recent Grand Street Dems meeting she claimed that local residents were confused, that there had never been a formal Value Engineering Report stating that the current plan could be constructed faster and more easily than the former plan. Yet, seemingly out of thin air, the City has produced this exact report yesterday, most of it redacted to the point that the only thing a reasonably intelligent person could infer from it is that the City is hiding whatever information of substance they have about the ESCR.

    What we do know is that the current plan will leave the community without any interim flood protection at all, likely for years, while risking the health of thousands of NYCHA and co-op residents with the dust generated from a million tons of fill that is slated to be dumped on the park.

    If there is one thing we should have learned about climate change by now, it’s that we can’t mitigate an environmental crisis by obliterating the environment. Nature is not an optional nicety that we can destroy without repercussions. The thousand trees in East River Park currently cool summer temperatures, clean the air and convert emissions from FDR Drive into oxygen. This is the very air we breathe.

    Let’s call a spade a spade: The current plan readies the land for development. It might make the park safe for glass towers and $12 ice cream cones in the future, but it is neither resilient nor safe for the community.

  7. Stuart Stuart February 12, 2021

    Well whaddya know? Disappointed Carlina doesn’t represent her constituents?!!!? Ha Ha. She ran on opposing the Third Avenue Tech Hub, and days after she was elected gave it her full support. She has opened up her East Village and Lower East Side neighborhoods, already overburdened and oversaturated with bars and restaurants to PERMANENT sheds built in our streets, and a steady din of Bourbon Street. This is all under the guise and cover of helping struggling businesses during the pandemic. Now you’d be hard pressed to find a New Yorker who doesn’t want to help those businesses. But WHY sell us down the river PERMANENTLY, and with NO public input? Carlina serves one master; Her own political ambition. She’s #notAOC .

  8. Kim Sillen Kim Sillen February 12, 2021

    As my neighbors of color have been saying repeatedly, this is enviromental racism. Why not try unloading a plan like this on Tribeca? If not for being situated next to NYCHA in our mostly low- and middle-income community, this wouldn’t be happening. NYCHA residents will suffer the most from the health impacts the plan causes, and CM Rivera refuses to address that.

  9. Beans Beans February 12, 2021

    Carlina backtracked on her campaign promises regarding the Tech Hub and community preservation much to the dismay of the residents of the community. She doesn’t deserve a 2nd term.

  10. Tommy Loeb Tommy Loeb February 12, 2021

    This is what Councilwoman Rivera calls transparency. We had to use Freedom of Information law to uncover documents. Councilwoman Rivera told us they did not exist. When we finally got them two days ago we got page after page that was redacted. What are they hiding? Why won’t Councilwoman Rivera get the unredacted report now that she knows it exists?

  11. David R. Marcus David R. Marcus February 12, 2021

    Good to see she is finally getting some comeuppance for her regular and consistent betrayal of her community and her campaign promises; 14th Street Busway, 14th Street Tech Hub and now ignoring their wishes about East River Park. Who is she accountable to and who is she catering to; surely not us. If she’s angling for a post-political job, why doesn’t she just go for it and stop pretending she has our best interests at heart?

  12. First Houses First Houses February 15, 2021

    Can we address how awful Scott Stringer is? He could done an audit on this proposal, but didn’t. A do-nothing Assembly Member, a horrible Borough President and he has said nothing about the Tale of Two Cities waterfronts. How does the west side get public funding for the Barry Diller vanity park, while the LES — where the Baruch Houses, Stuy Town and other tenement houses exist — gets a last-minute shove-down-your-throat plan and Stringer says nothing. He says nothing because he’s been bought and sold for years by REBNY. Kathryn Garcia is a better candidate who actually understands the environmental impact of this plan shoved to us by James Patchett from EDC, who happens to have just resigned the other day. Hmmmmmm

  13. Margot Olavarria Margot Olavarria February 15, 2021

    Yes, Carlina Rivera has to go, and thankfully there is a great candidate running against her: Erin Hussein, a longtime tenants advocate. Hussein does not support the demolition of East River Park. See February 15 Village Sun article for more information about her.

  14. andrew lawrence andrew lawrence February 18, 2021

    The Village Sun should be commended for straightforward reporting on the ESCR and the protection efforts of the entire Lower East Side. As an empiricist, your letters to the editor segment has shown me that I, throughout this whole complex ESCR-Big U development “process,” am finally not a one-off NIMBY.

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