East Side Coastal Resiliency Project: Update

Please read our testimony to the New York City Council regarding the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project below:

LESReady! Co-Chair Damaris Reyes (GOLES) speaking at City Hall on Wednesday, January 23rd about the City’s proposed changes to the ESCR. (Photo: Naomi Schiller)

LESReady is the Lower East Side’s long-term recovery and resiliency group, which consists of approximately 25 formal members and participation from over 50 organizations and faith-based groups who were the direct responders to Superstorm Sandy. LESReady is a coalition of groups, mostly local, working cooperatively to coordinate our response, resources, preparedness planning and training, to address extreme weather events and future disasters locally.

GOLES and LESReady released our report Getting LES Ready, which was the culmination of nearly 700 surveys of Lower East Side residents and 8 focus groups and meetings with hundreds of people. The report explores the Lower East Side community’s experience during and after Superstorm Sandy, as part of informing a community-based disaster relief plan, created by LESReady. Genuine community engagement is central to our mission and is a critical best practice of community disaster preparedness and resiliency.

What’s being proposed flies in the face of years of hard work and extensive community engagement to come up with a plan to protect the neighborhood from disaster. For community residents who participated in the previous public process, it feels as if the plan that emerged as a product of years of community input has gone out the window. Public meetings about the new plan have only allowed 10 – 15 minute public comment and question periods, leaving many questions unanswered. It’s critically necessary to conduct a new period of community engagement around the new plan, in order to ensure that residents are well-informed and have an opportunity to make their voices heard. This is especially essential for residents who live in the subsidized housing that lines the waterfront, since these residents will be the most impacted by the plan and have been the least represented at public meetings about what’s going on.

Concerns about the development pressures on the adjacent subsidized housing, and potential displacement of low- and moderate-income residents must be addressed in greater detail. These concerns were raised all along, but took a back seat to the budgetary and timeline constraints, factors that have clearly changed.

The City must work together with a diverse range of stakeholders with deep roots in the community in order to develop a process that facilitates maximum input from residents living in waterfront-adjacent subsidized housing, with the necessary technical resources to help people provide feedback on the plan from a thoroughly informed position.

Further, residents of these developments and the surrounding neighborhood rely on the East River Park as a vital source of open space and recreation. For low- and moderate-income residents, seeking alternative sources of open space and recreational space is prohibitively costly. Closing it for three years will have a devastating effect on thousands of community residents, and no real mitigation has been planned. For example, there haven’t been any proposed solutions for the community to even consider, like the provision of free shuttle buses, Metro Cards, and free ferry service to alternate parks such as Brooklyn Bridge Park and Governor’s Island for residents impacted by this construction and park closure to access other parks that may provide potential alternatives that are farther away.

Finally, the new plan will result in significant, long-term environmental impacts that haven’t been adequately explored. This plan includes killing all existing flora and fauna in the park. Presentations on the plan to-date have offered no sense of the long-term environmental impacts of this level of destruction of autochthonous biodiversity. Construction will also lead to concerns around air quality, in a neighborhood with notably high asthma rates. Additionally, the new plan calls for artificial turf and soil, which can include potentially carcinogenic chemicals. A thorough assessment of the long-term environmental and health impacts of the planned landscaping is absolutely imperative.

We understand, from firsthand experience, the enormity of climate impacts and their devastating effects on our community, and we dedicated ourselves to the earlier public processes precisely for that reason. Creating flood protections is at the core of LESReady’s mission, but the community’s input and needs must be central to their development. This community knows best what it needs, and residents have a right to be a part of planning their future. The introduction of this new process and plan feels like a “bait and switch,” with minimal transparency, further exacerbating long-term lack of trust in government from our communities.

We urge the City Council to do everything possible to prevent any plan from moving forward that overrides years of community input from a broad range of stakeholders, that would restrict access to a vital source of recreation and open space for Lower East Side residents, and that leaves critical long-term environmental impacts inadequately addressed.

Read more about the meeting here

Hurricane Florence

As the Carolina’s and surrounding area recover and rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, we’ve compiled a list of organizations that will be providing sustaining and ongoing support to the affected communities.

Operation BBQ Relief
Provides meals for relief workers as well as residents displaced by natural disasters.

North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund
Managed by the government of North Carolina, the fund will help meet the immediate needs of individuals affected by Hurricane Florence.

One SC Fund
This fund supports South Carolinians who are recovering from state-declared disasters by providing grants to nonprofits to fund relief, recovery and/or rebuilding assistance programs.

Foundation for the Carolinas
Donations to the Hurricane Florence Response Fund will be directed to nonprofits in North and South Carolina providing relief to victims of the storm. Grants will be distributed to areas of greatest need.

Feeding the Carolinas
Feeding the Carolinas is an alliance of the NC State Association and the SC State Association, representing all nine food banks in the Carolinas plus a food recovery organization.

Coastal Animal Rescue
This no-kill-no-cage shelter with a veterinary clinic that has taken in dozens of dogs and cats and given them treatment.

LESReady! Disaster Response Plan Completed

BIG NEWS! After years of hard work, member feedback, endless editing and *lots* of InDesign tutorials, LESReady’s Disaster Response Plan is complete and in our member’s hands! You can view a PDF of the Plan by clicking here.

A very, very big thank you to all of our members who contributed input and content, and to our funders – especially The New York Community Trust – for making this work possible.

Volunteering with LESReady!

Interested in Volunteering? Please fill out the Volunteer Form.