Tag Archives: waterfront

Scaled-back design presented for new FDR pedestrian bridge


Project planners for the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project have retreated from last year’s ambitious preliminary designs for a new pedestrian bridge across the FDR at Delancey Street in the face of engineering obstacles and controversy in the community.

  • Curved ramps and an organic span over the FDR have become straight lines due to municipal requirements that the new structure be easily maintained with standard building elements.
  • A wide, welcoming park entrance on Delancey has been narrowed because of Department of Homeland Security requirements that a 50-foot security buffer be respected next to the Williamsburgh Bridge foundation.
  • An approach toward Grand Street for improved access to bus lines has been scrapped after considering the narrow sidewalk in front of building 4 and opposition from building 4 residents.

This last element — an approach toward Grand Street — was the most controversial when preliminary designs were shown last fall. Presenters tonight in the East River community room carefully explained the engineering and other obstacles that have forced them to abandon that part of the concept. A full ramp leading to Grand Street, where three city bus lines congregate, had no room over the narrow sidewalk and frontage road for supports. A shorter staircase faced similar problems and would have violated a stated goal of universal access, the idea that stairs should not be built where a ramp could not.

What’s left is still an improvement over the current bridge.

View of proposed bridge from Delancey street looking toward the FDR and East River.
View of proposed bridge from Delancey street looking toward the FDR and East River.
  • A shallow 5% grade on the ramp makes the park much more accessible for the elderly and disabled.
  • The ramp would be 4- to 6-feet wider, making it safer for pedestrians and bicycles to coexist.
  • New placement of the entrance ramp and relocation of the East River parking lot entrance enlarges the buffer between cars and bikes.

There’s still a lot left to learn about what the full ESCRP designs will look like. We are just over one-third of the way through the design process, with several more milestones for public engagement before plans are finalized. The date for construction to begin, which had been fast-tracked to 2017 by aggressive federal funding deadlines, has been pushed back two years. In particular, the question of what materials will be used — and whether sound absorbing materials can be used for the 8-foot wall we will be looking at across the FDR — could not be answered at all, and apparently will not even be considered until farther into the process.

Thursday at 7pm: East River storm surge project update

It’s been a year since we’ve received any update on the huge East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, the federally-funded reconstruction of our East River waterfront to prevent another storm surge like the one we experienced during Sandy in 2012.

But now we have a big chance to hear what the engineers and landscape designers have come up with in that time during a public meeting this Thursday at 7 pm in our community room (building 4, section M).

Of particular interest to cooperators will be what project planners are proposing for the pedestrian bridge over the FDR Drive next to the Williamsburg Bridge. Last year, three directions were shared: one which stayed mainly true to the existing bridge; a more elaborate design that included a winding bridge and a stairs leading right in front of building 4; and a reimagining of the bridge as a full extension of East River Park into building 4’s lap.

Option 1
Option 1
Option 2
Option 2
Option 3
Option 3

Participants in public sessions last fall were largely weary of option 3, which seemed to take too much away from our own property. A heated discussion broke out among cooperators about the benefits and drawbacks of the staircase in option 2 — some thought it would encourage use of the park by providing a quicker pass from Grand Street, while others thought it would bring death and destruction.

Project planners seemed inclined to avoid any controversy, especially as a simpler bridge design would allow them to spend limited money on the other pedestrian bridges at Houston, 6th Street, and 10th Street, so it would not be surprising if their proposal this year looks more like last year’s more limited Option 1. But nothing is final, and community feedback is still important to this process.

There are major changes right around the corner for the stretch of waterfront in our backyard. Please come out Thursday to see what’s in store and make your voice heard:

Thursday, September 29
7:00 pm
East River Coop Community Room
Building 4, Section M

Altman: FDR pedestrian bridge is a matter of life and death!

Altman memo 9-3-2015 (1)

East River board president Gary Altman thinks a redesigned pedestrian bridge across the FDR Drive would imperil the lives of cooperators, and he wants you to know that he’s burning through his City Hall rolodex to kill the bridge before it kills you.

In a 1000-word essay to cooperators distributed yesterday, Altman says the concepts presented by the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project this summer — including improved access to East River Park from Grand Street — would bring high-speed bicyclists directly into the path of unsuspecting cooperators and block first responders from reaching building 4 in an emergency.

His fears are unwarranted. The proposed approach to Grand Street included stairs to make sure bicyclists use a safer route. And the idea that every inch of the FDR service road is needed for an ambulance to reach building 4 is just silly.

More to the point, the designs presented in July were concepts intended to evoke constructive reactions and criticism from residents. The conversation about the Delancey crossing included ample suggestions about safety, which project planners were eager to hear and incorporate into future plans.

The designers working on protecting our homes from another storm surge are intent on enhancing our relationship to the waterfront at the same time. They are searching deeply for creative solutions to that challenge, and we should be open to finding one with them.

Altman did not attend the ESCRP presentation in July when the concept designs for four FDR Drive pedestrian crossings were shared with interested LES residents, so his mistaken impression of these design options is excusable — but his overreaction to them is not. Why stoke fear among East River’s elderly cooperators? Why issue a Just-Say-No edict to his friends in city government while a productive design process is underway?

The concepts presented this summer were well-intentioned, thought-provoking, and imperfect. Project planners deserve to know the full range of opinion from cooperators — not just Altman’s. Come to next Thursday’s workshop to see the designs for yourself and help shape this important neighborhood project:

Thursday, September 10, 2015
Henry Street Settlement
301 Henry Street
Doors open at 6:30
Presentation begins at 7:00

Design concepts for East River berms and bridges are eye-opening

The high-impact concept of a new Delancey Street  crossing.
The high-impact concept of a new Delancey Street crossing.

Imagine a sloping landscape that blocks traffic noise from East River Park and keeps floods from washing away our cars. Imagine an entrance to the waterfront that starts right at the foot of Grand Street. Imagine walking on a bridge over the highway and already being in the park.

Now imagine five years of construction, and a long concrete ramp permanently installed right outside your front door.

All this and more is what community members were asked to imagine last night as the design team behind the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (the Big U, the Dryline) presented concept designs for each of four FDR Drive crossings.

After Sandy, federal recovery money was allocated to storm surge protection along the East River from 23rd Street down to Montgomery. This area represents low-lying neighborhoods vulnerable to flood, and, crucially, is home to the Con Ed plant that powers almost all of lower Manhattan.

Workshop leaders discussed four current bridges that take pedestrians into East River Park — at 10th Street, 6th Street, Houston, and Delancey — and presented three design options for each one that ranged from low-impact (and lower cost) to expansive (and expensive) redesign.

They explained that the money to erect flood walls, berms (wide, gradual slopes), and deployable storm surge barriers was also an opportunity to increase access to East River Park and improve our neighborhood’s connection to the waterfront. As such, the pedestrian crossings are being looked at closely to determine how to make them more accessible (not as steep, better positioned), and more integrated into the park.

For each bridge, the low-impact version involved keeping the existing span but repositioning the ramps on either side so that they have more gradual slopes. The high-impact version involved rebuilding the bridge so that it is wider, with ramps that are landscaped into the park and reach deeper into the neighborhood. (In the middle was a Goldilocks option somewhere between the two extremes.)

For Delancey Street, the possibilities were eye-opening. From previous workshops, planners had been told that the bridge was too noisy (so close to the Williamsburgh Bridge traffic) and not accessible enough to Grand Street. So the high-impact concept they presented pulls the bridge away from Delancey and places one ramp along the FDR access road, right in front of building 4, letting out on the corner of Grand.

The design was curved and beautiful, and, as all architectural models look, it felt utopian and aspirational. Of course, for those people who live in building 4, on the lower floors perhaps, the prospect of a pedestrian bridge out your window might seem like the end of the world.

The Goldilocks version for Delancey, narrower but still reaching toward Grand Street.
The Goldilocks version for Delancey, narrower but still reaching toward Grand Street.

There were lots of caveats: these are concepts only, and the designers seem eager to get feedback and see the challenge from all angles.

Board member Lee Berman was at the workshop, along with House Committee members Jeff Super and Ellen Renstrom, and other East River cooperators. Lee spoke with project planners after the presentation and initiated the arrangement of a stakeholders meeting right here at East River, as the redesign of the Delancey Street crossing, one way or another, will obviously have a big impact on our coop.

One last note: The Corlears Hook bridge was left out of the workshop for a simple reason — it already embodies many of the concepts the designers are trying to incorporate elsewhere. The bridge is wide, it is already part of the park, and the amphitheatre is already built up like a berm to cut off flood waters. Aside from better lighting and other cosmetics, designers are not likely to spent too much of their money making alterations there.

East Side Coastal Resiliency community meeting July 30th

bridging-berm-r-800x0Following up on community meetings in March, the City is hosting a series of community design workshops to discuss the upcoming redesign of the East River waterfront.

The meeting to discuss our part of the project, from Houston to Montgomery, will be held on July 30 at 7:00 pm at Manny Cantor Center, 197 East Broadway.

A new study written by NASA’s former lead climate scientist claims that polar ice melting is speeding up faster than previously thought, and that NYC and other coastal cities are facing a 10-foot rise in sea level in the next 50 years. Sandy was a wake-up call, and the waterfront redesign is meant to protect homes and infrastructure (like Con Ed) from another storm surge, or even a permanent rise.

If you’re interested in the future of this neighborhood, come by Manny Cantor next Thursday to see what the resiliency project is all about.

The Dryline — watch a green flood barrier grow in East River Park

Last summer, the feds announced a huge $335 million grant for a storm surge barrier running from East 23rd Street to Montgomery — the first phase of what was dubbed the “Big U” to protect all of lower Manhattan from another storm surge like the one in 2012.

Now the project has been rebranded the “Dryline,” and this brief video has been released to describe its philosophy and ambition. Also, for the first time, you can see renderings of what this barrier might look like — and the cool animation lets you see it rise up before your very eyes:

Big U public hearing on January 15


Our relationship to the East River was changed forever when Sandy hit in 2012. In response, an ambitious project called the Big U has been proposed to protect lower Manhattan from another storm surge.

The first phase of the storm barrier, from 23rd Street to Montgomery along the east side, was promised $335 million in federal funds this summer.

A public hearing on this plan is taking place on January 15 at 7:00 p.m. at the Manny Cantor Center, 197 East Broadway, 6th floor.

This project is likely to completely reshape the land between the FDR Drive and the River and directly affect East River cooperators.