About a year ago, we shared eight renderings that showed what a substantially more flood-proof Lower East Side waterfront might look like. If you have strong opinions about which of those options might work better in preventing another Hurricane Sandy from devastating the neighborhood, now’s the time to speak up.
Just after the mayor’s announcement Saturday that nearly $15 million in state and city funds will go toward comprehensive flood protection planning below Montgomery Street and around the tip of Lower Manhattan as well as Battery Park flood protection design and implementation, the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project held one of several community engagement sessions Thursday night at the Bard High School Early College on East Houston Street.
Daniel Zarrilli, director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, laid out the possibilities of the $335 million project, which is slated to begin construction by mid-2017 and is currently in the pre-design phase. As part of its study, the team asked the roughly 80 people who attended the meeting to put stickers on a large map signifying where they use the waterfront, the path they take to get there from their homes, and how they feel about certain areas.
Three basic options were presented: the first was a berm along the shoreline, which is a wide, elevated piece of earthen landscape, sometimes called a levy. Another option is a permanent narrow wall to keep the water from coming into the city, and there’s also the possibility of a deployable wall to be constructed only when a storm is expected to hit. Jeremy Seigel, a designer at BIG, an architecture and urban design firm the city is teaming with for the Resiliency Project, said they will try to minimize the number of deployable structures to reduce the chance that anything could go wrong due to human error.
The goal, he said, is to make the structures as integrated in the community as possible. The berms, for example, would most likely be used as a place for the community to enjoy the outdoors, with benches and outdoor furniture for people to sit on. He showed a photo of the berm in Scheveningen, Netherlands as an example.
Because it allows for more access to the waterfront than a wall, Seigel said the project will use berms as often as it can. This is a great option for East River Park, he added, but not as practical for the riverfront north of 14th Street, where the narrow pathway along the river gives very little space to work with.
The project is currently at the stage where the ground and soil is being investigated, the land is being surveyed, and divers are inspecting waterfront structures. Right now the Office of Recovery and Resiliency is presenting all the possibilities to the public so it can gain feedback.
“We’re looking at the pedestrian and bicycle conditions; that’s important, especially for a place so disconnected from the neighborhood by the FDR,” Seigel said. Zarrilli agreed, saying the goal is to create flood protection that doesn’t wall off the community. “We want to implement these measures in a way that does not impede our interaction with the waterfront,” he said.
If you would like more information on the East Coast Resiliency Project, attend the second community engagement session March 23 at Washington Irving High School, 40 Irving Place.