Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio officially announced the groundbreaking of the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project in Lower Manhattan.

The $1.45 billion climate resiliency project will protect hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers on Manhattan’s East Side, from East 25th Street south to Montgomery Street, from flooding and sea level rise while improving waterfront spaces and access.

Department of City Planning

“Building a recovery for all of us means fighting climate change and investing in resilient communities,” Mayor de Blasio stated in a press release. “This project will keep generations of New Yorkers safe from extreme weather, coastal storm, and rising sea levels — all while preserving and improving some of our city’s most iconic open spaces."

The overhaul is anticipated to take five years and is jointly funded by the city and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which provided $338 million in Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds through the Rebuild By Design competition. The initiative was largely developed as a response to the devastation brought on by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Images via Bjarke Ingels Group Instagram

The project will eventually see 57 acres of coastal parkland reconstructed. Upgrades will give way to a 2.4-mile system of raised parks, floodwalls, berms, and movable floodgates to create a continuous line of protection along the Lower East Side and East Village waterfronts. The height of the flood protection throughout the project will extend between eight and nine feet above the existing grade and can accommodate the addition of two more feet of elevation should sea levels rise faster than projected.

The project also involves significant improvements to public open spaces and amenities, including better waterfront access via new and reconstructed bridges and entry points. It will also upgrade existing sewer systems to capture and manage precipitation during storms.

Stuyvesant Cove with a new ped bridge over FDR Drive | Bjarke Ingels Group

Construction crews have already begun installing an underground wall of structural sheeting in Stuyvesant Cove Park and will soon begin pile driving. Work in East River Park will begin later this year using a phased construction schedule to ensure roughly half of that park remains open throughout the duration of the project — a major sticking point with locals residents.

Although area residents will retain some park access during construction, the project is still an upset to many. In addition to the years-long closures the ESCR will create, locals are also unhappy with the huge price tag (originally $338 million) and the city's lack of transparency. Officials have switched gears on the project, adopting different designs since it was first announced in 2018. 

The City anticipates the ESCR will be complete by 2025. It is being managed by the NYC Department of Design and Construction and is the design of a consultant team led by AKRF and KS Engineers. Team collaborators include Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Mathews Nielsen, Arcadis, and Site Works, among others. Worth noting, BIG also has its hands on another transformative waterfront project: River Ring in Williamsburg.