By Brian Robinson, D-10 NY Congressional Candidate
In yet another iteration of this classic rivalry, we journey no further than Battery Park City. Beloved by local residents of lower Manhattan, Battery Park is an absolute gem. The parks there are immaculate, many of which, like Rockefeller and Wagner Park, lay right at the waterline of the Hudson River. My wife and I take our daughter to the playground there at least weekly. She loves to run around Wagner Park. Unfortunately, a familiar theme is emerging there. The Battery Park City Authority has initiated an effort to uproot Wagner Park in a two year closure that serves as a great injustice to the community of 16K residents of Battery Park and the 690K people per year that BP’s public spaces serve annually. The rationale for this endeavor, given a cursory glance, sounded like something we could all get behind, despite the sense of loss that would be felt as the park converts to a restricted area. After all, the BPCA cited climate change and storm resiliency as a determining factor. A deeper analysis, however, reveals an ulterior motive.
The Battery Park City Neighborhood Organization, a group of local residents, many with children, depend on their beloved green space. It’s the ideal outlet for New York City kids that are often limited by the size of their apartments to get their energy out in a fun and healthy way. Of, course the BPCNA cares about resiliency and future proofing for climate change, as do I, but these concepts cannot be posited disingenuously in order to slip a profit centered initiative through the back door. Upon conducting due diligence, this is exactly what I found.
One only needs to reference the CB1 meeting on September 26th, 2017 to find that concerns that, “The BPCA is focused on the SBPC plan to increase revenue generating assets within Wagner Park”. In the same meeting, the BPCA acknowledges such, stating, “…the new structure is an integral part of the Wagner Park Resiliency Plan and not first and foremost a revenue generating project…” In other words, yes, money will be made by shutting down Wagner Park for two years but it will be worth it because the community will be protected from flooding, rising sea levels, and “a 100 year storm” as they put it. I really wanted this to be true, but in reality, these claims are ripe with contradictions.
For one, the two-year closure is part of a plan that was developed after Hurricane Sandy to protect Wagner Park from flooding. One merely needs to look at the history to discover that Wagner Park never flooded during Sandy. Parts of the Financial District were, and all vulnerable flooding points ought to be future proofed, but Wagner Park is already raised well above the water line. There is, however, climate change to think about. Future proofing isn’t a bad idea where it makes sense. According to NASA’s Godard Institute on Climate: Sea level in New York City has risen on average 0.27 cm/year or 0.2286-0.381 cm/year over the last hundred years. Looking ahead, it is expected that sea levels in the area will rise on average 0.3885 cm/year or anywhere from 0.175-0.602 cm/year by the 2050s. Even a conservative calculation would amount to less than four inches of sea level rise in the next 20 years. Meanwhile is a solid 7-10 feet above the water line as it stands.
So where is the real urgency here? Are we really going to allow one of the best parks in the city to be closed off to the residents, (many of which have children) for two years to remedy a problem that doesn’t even exist? Alternatively, let’s identify every single point of flooding during Hurricane Sandy, calculate the cost of the damage in those areas, and reboot with a plan to protect the actual flood zones. Perhaps there is even revenue generating potential in those areas (though I’d wager there is not). Every single member of the BPCNA believes that climate change is a real threat, yet they publicly decry this “resiliency” project. In yet another tale of green vs. greed, one need only follow the money to see why.