East River Park
When Manhattan’s John V. Lindsay East River Park opened in 1939, planners likely didn’t see it as important defense against storm surges, but it has proven to be an important feature of resiliency for the island.
East River Park is the Lower East Side and East Village’s largest open space at 57 acres and more than a mile of waterfront. It hosts an array of activities, including baseball, soccer, tennis, playgrounds, and fitness equipment, as well as gardening and composting, and educational facilities. An important link on the East River Esplanade, East River Park also acts as the first line of defense against storm surges and rising tides for residents of the Lower East Side.
After Hurricane Sandy, Rebuild by Design created a competition for plans that would protect Manhattan from future Sandy-like events. The East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) concept – centered on enhancements to East River Park – was presented as the first phase of the “Big U”, a vision that won $335 million from HUD to protect Lower Manhattan from flooding and the impacts of a changing climate.
The project would transform and expand the current East River Park into a resilient park meant to protect 617 acres, 30,000 affordable units, and 130,000 residents. A study group consisting of community-based organizations, representatives of elected officials, and residents was formed to evaluate stewardship options for the new ESCR Project and ensure that the interests of the community were included in the planning process.
The Trust for Public Land, along with Rebuild by Design and James Lima Planning + Development, prepared a report on stewardship options, which will be a model for parks and cities around the world as they look at green spaces as a way to address climate change and enhance community resilience.