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Massive East River storm barrier will also be a cool new park

Written by
Howard Halle

After Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, all kind of ideas were bandied about to combat future fallout from major meteorological mayhem. One proposal would have built a retractable sea wall across the Verrazano Narrows to prevent storm surges from entering New York Harbor. Another called for giant balloons that could be inflated at the mouths of the subway system’s tunnels to prevent them from flooding. Neither seemed especially practical, but now, another proposal is moving forward for what’s essentially one long storm-resistant park running from Battery Park to 23rd Street. It’s name is the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR), or more colloquially, the Dryline.

On of the more devastating aspects of Sandy was the storm surge that went up the East River, knocking out the Con Ed plant on 14th Street and plunging Manhattan south of Midtown into darkness. The solution—a coastal protection barrier in the form of a huge city park—is being designed by starchitecture firm of the moment, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). They had released initial renderings of the project last year, which focused on the Battery Park leg of ESCR. But newly released plans show that the first phase of The Dryline will run from 23rd Street south to Montgomery Street near Corlears Hook. As in the case to the original Dryline drawings, the new look at ESCR shows a necklace of green spaces and recreational facilities following the river east of FDR Drive. Bridges across the highway will connect pedestrians to the new park, which slopes upward as it moves inland to created a massive landscaped berm carved with paths for walking and biking.

According to the Office of the Mayor, the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project “is being implemented by the City, with the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency spearheading the project. It’s funded by $335M the City secured via the Rebuild by Design competition.” Over the summer, the Mayor announced an additional $100 million dollar allocation to complete the section from Montgomery Street to Battery Park. Another $500 million in funding is being sought from the Federal Government.

The Mayor’s office also noted that ESCR is simply one part of the City’s comprehensive $20 billion resiliency plan that includes extensive coastal protection, building upgrades, critical infrastructure and services and community improvements “all based on the best available climate science.”

That science concludes that events like Sandy will become more frequent as the century wears on. For now, however, they remain rare, which means, for all practical purposes, that the city is getting a brand new amenity to rival Brooklyn Bridge Park. And if the shit does hit the fan, it will provide the added bonus of mitigating the damage.

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