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Rivera: Climate-change projects will be ‘our generation’s moonshot’

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The East Side Coastal Resiliency mega-project will be a Darryl Strawberry-sized home run for the community, according to Mayor de Blasio and Councilmember Carlina Rivera.

A good part of the mayor’s Thursday press conference, which Rivera joined, was spent promoting the ambitious $1.45 billion undertaking, whose project area stretches from Montgomery St. to E. 25th St.

Rivera called the project “very, very personal” for her. She predicted that climate-change efforts, like E.S.C.R., “are going to be our generation’s lasting mark on the nation’s infrastructure.”

(In the video, above, of the mayor’s April 15 press conference, the section on the East Side Coastal Resiliency project starts at 11:25 minutes. Councilmember Rivera’s remarks start at 16:40.)

This week work is kicking off on the E.S.C.R. project’s Stuyvesant Cove Park section, between E. 18th and 23rd Sts.

However, a contractor for the East River Park segment, between Montgomery and E. 12th Sts., has not been selected yet. Under the scheme, East River Park would be raised from 8 feet to 10 feet and then rebuilt from scratch, in a massive job that would last at least five years, though opponents warn it could well take longer.

Harking back to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, de Blasio called the project “absolutely crucial.”

“The East Side [Coastal] Resiliency project, it’s one of the biggest in the nation, and will protect so many people in one of the most densely populated areas of the nation,” he said. “And we have learned through experience that we have to get ahead of this challenge and invest now. It will protect tens of thousands of residents, including many, many public housing residents. It will protect the lives of people against whatever mother nature throws at us, and it’s something we’re doing for the long term.”

According to the city, 110,000 residents, including 28,000 public housing tenants, would be protected from flooding by the E.S.C.R. plan.

In her remarks, Rivera fondly recalled childhood memories of East River Park and stressed the importance of the city’s resiliency efforts.

“It is very, very personal for me and my community,” she said, “to embark on a first-of-its-kind project that not only protects New Yorkers from storms and protects my community from sea-level rise, but preserves access to a cherished park, where I as a Lower East Side resident have so, so many memories.

“East River Park was an escape for me,” she said. “It was where I practiced my Darryl Strawberry impersonation, winning countless Little League games, and where I learned to ride my bike.

“It’s time to ensure that another storm never brings 8 feet of water into our East Side homes and businesses again,” she said.

“Climate-change projects, like E.S.C.R., are going to be our generation’s lasting mark on the nation’s infrastructure,” she declared. “They’re our generation’s moonshot, our subway system, and they’re not going to be easy. But I’m happy that our neighborhood stepped up and took the lead on the first major resiliency project in New York City.”

A promotional video for the E.S.C.R. project showed a scale model of the rebuilt East River Park, noting it will also be a “flood barrier.”

The councilmember noted that other parts of the city, like Coney Island, Red Hook and the South Bronx “have been crying out for their own resiliency projects.”

Rivera said the brand-new, rebuilt East River Park would have the same footprint, the same sports fields, better accessibility, “more barbecue areas because my neighbors love to grill” and upgraded facilities.

She added that, due to phased construction, East Siders would be able to use half the park during the work, as well as use other parks around the neighborhood that have been “improved and upgraded” to pick up the slack while part of East River Park is off-line.

“The project is a big deal for the East Side,” Rivera stressed. “It’s monumental.”

Councilmember Keith Powers also spoke in favor of the E.S.C.R. plan. A Stuyvesant Town resident, he recalled watching the floodwaters rising in Stuyvesant Cove Park during Sandy and the moment that the lights went out.

During the press conference, a promotional video of the resiliency project was shown, featuring the likes of Nancy Ortiz, tenants association president at the Lower East Side’s Vladeck Houses, and outgoing Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, both touting the project.

“We New Yorkers think big,” Ortiz said. “Let’s show the world what we can do.”

Speaking of home runs, betraying his true colors perhaps as a Boston Red Sox fan, de Blasio quipped he was happy the young Rivera had idolized Strawberry while playing ball in East River Park and not a player from the Sox’ hated division rivals.

“I’m really glad you used an example from the Mets and not the Yankees for when you were getting your home run stance there,” he joked. “That makes me feel good about you. Thank you!”

Meanwhile, opponents of the E.S.C.R. plan are set to hold a protest march on Sun., April 18, starting at noon in Tompkins Square Park and heading down to the East River Park amphitheater for a rally at 1:30 p.m. The opponents support a simpler plan that would not raise the park but would instead create berms and floodwalls to protect the surrounding community; although it would be a flood-control plan, unlike the “elevated park” scenario, it would not combat sea-level rise.

Some opponents shrugged that Thursday’s press conference by de Blasio and Rivera hyping the resiliency project was just an effort to “get out ahead” of Sunday’s protest.


  1. David R. Marcus David R. Marcus April 18, 2021

    We have come to understand that de Blasio is tone deaf to our community because he has no connection. Time and again he has pushed his awful plans upon us without proper input or oversight. I doubt if he would behave any differently if he did have a connection as his political fortunes and future aspirations have always had him using our city as a steeping stone to some greater office where he could continue to perfect his incompetence.

    Rivera, on the other hand, is the much bigger offender as she is from here, was elected here and yet constantly puts her own interests above those of her constituents. The neighborhood and local people have spoken and are against the ESCR, in favor of the plan they worked on for so long that would preserve their park.

    These two electeds can say what they want but the community is opposed to their ill advised plan. When so many knowledgeable people and residents speak against it, only fools carry on and think they are smarter than the very people who live near and use the park and who had developed a very sensible plan to protect it and its surroundings.

    Time for them to back off. As my grandma used to say, when so many people tell you are dead, you best just lie down. and accept it.

    Time for them to listen to the people. Time for them to leave us alone.

  2. Deborah M Deborah M April 18, 2021

    “The community’s painstaking work over four years is being completely pushed aside,” said Carlina Rivera, a councilwoman from the East Village. “The new plan represents a fundamental departure from anything the City had discussed. The mayor’s office has failed to provide detailed analyses on why the cost increase is necessary. Until those questions are answered, I cannot back the direction the mayor’s office has taken.”

    Curious how suddenly Rivera changed her mind even though those questions, two years later, remain unanswered.

    ESCR has been a dirty sweetheart deal for Real Estate interests from the get-go. Obviously we need flood protection, and we need it yesterday. True flood protection NEVER required destroying an entire park to achieve. In fact, had the original plan broken ground in 2018 as promised, and been completed timely as promised, we’d have it by this summer. Instead we’re looking at probably 10 or more years of construction that will add small particulate matter into our already polluted air, at the same time that we lose up to 1,000 mature trees that clean our air, not to speak of untold years without the joy and solace of actual nature/greenspace – in a designated Environmental Justice Area, which the city supposedly now cares about.

    We need flood protection; we also need East River Park. It is not either/or and never was.

  3. JQ LLC JQ LLC April 18, 2021

    Reading past articles on here, I was under the impression Carlina had no idea what was going on with this plan.

    It’s too bad that other little girls won’t have any memories playing little league ball here for another decade.

  4. JS JS April 18, 2021

    ESCR will be a disaster for the park. Council Member Rivera should listen to her constituents, many of whom are opposed to this plan. Council Member Rivera is part of the de Blasio machine.

  5. JD JD April 17, 2021

    Councilmember Rivera’s vision for our neighborhood: Less nature, more concrete, more pollution, more access for developers. It’s funny to hear her and de Blasio, with his firm stand against police accountability, calling themselves “progressive”.

  6. Allie Ryan Allie Ryan April 16, 2021

    I remember when Hurricane Sandy came, too. My daughter was 6 months old and said her first word, “Mama.” Go Time’s Up! and Matilda’s for being there for the community!

    So when are the Dept of Transportation and Con Ed going to give their public presentations on what they have done/are planning to do between 13th and 18th Sts in regard to flood protection?

  7. A. Colby A. Colby April 16, 2021

    Nice memories, Councilperson Rivera. If this plan goes through, there won’t be a park there for a minimum of ten years, I’m guessing it’ll be more like twenty. If you really believe this park can be replaced in 5 years, when it took 10 to fix the esplanade, I have a bridge to sell you. You have sold out your constituents.

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