A 12-Year-Old Reporter on the Future of Wagner Park

By Alden Roosevelt

One Saturday morning I was invited, last minute, to an event hosted by many politicians and community members. The event was mostly concerning the elevation and two-year closure of Wagner Park in Battery Park City. 

I went there in order to interview different politicians—some were for the elevation and multiyear closure of Wagner Park, and others were against it. There were plenty of children there to support keeping the land and trees as they are. After three years of COVID restrictions I’m sure the idea of losing this land for another three is a grim prospect, especially in a city with limited greenspace. 

Right away I was drawn to a friendly face. This person worked for a foundation, called Save Our Soil. This foundation believes in keeping what we have, and though we may not agree on which side is right or wrong, I believe we can all agree with the thought of preserving land, trees and soil.

ALDEN ROOSEVELT (right) with Anjali Nayak and her associate from Conscious Planet. Photo by Blaine Birchby.

Interview with Anjali Nayak, a representative for Save Our Soil

Alden: Nice to meet you, Anjali, I have a few questions for you. So, first off, I would like to discuss about how the Battery Park City Authorities are planning to elevate the park so it can withstand the next 100 years due to global warming, according to them, but they’re planning to close it down for two or three years now in order to do this…

Anjali: Right.

Alden: So, I was wondering where you stand on this.

Anjali: Right. But what we need is to preserve what is there, not rebuild something. We need to do those practices, not like agriculture, or preserving these spaces, but it is to preserve our human life, around what is existing. Not to refurbish something. The earth is not a piece of furniture that we can refurbish whenever we feel like. And I don’t feel that making any concrete based structure is the way to move forward.

My next interview was with the esteemed politician, Brian Robinson, representing NY Congress District 10.

Alden: So, basically from my understanding the Battery Park City Authority wants to elevate the ground around Wagner Park, so that it can still be here in 100 years, but will be shutting it down for two to three years, in doing so.

Brian: So yeah. My daughter goes to Wagner Park, all the kids in the community go to Wagner Park, it’s an extraordinary park, but part of the plan includes cutting down over 100 trees, which is absurd to me because the reason they do this, is for climate change. But how do you fight climate change by cutting down trees, number one. Number two, they’re saying (hurricane) Sandy is a reason for doing this, and there was a lot of flooding during Sandy, and I don’t deny that, but Wagner Park was not flooded during hurricane Sandy. So, to say we need to fix and elevate Wagner Park and close it for two years, ultimately for a project where you’re putting concrete over 75% of it, in order to somehow help us, in the community? No, absolutely not. So, I stand against that. The article in WestView News was pretty clear about that. Really what they’re doing is they’re citing things like climate change, things that people feel guilty about arguing against, but when you look at the facts, NASA statistics show that the ocean is only rising a very small fraction of a centimeter, per year. So, there are other designs that could be implemented for resiliency, but we don’t have to close Wagner Park for two or three years. So I 100% support not closing Wagner Park, and I don’t want concrete over it, and I don’t want it to be closed. I don’t want to cut down 100 trees, it makes no sense, so that’s what I represent, and that’s what I fight for.

My next interview is with Nick Sporedom; part of Battery Park City Authority.

Alden: Hi, my name is Alden, what’s yours?

Nick: Nick Sporedom, from the Battery Park City Authority.

Alden: I was just wondering if you could talk about the elevation of Wagner Park?

Nick: So, lower Manhattan is subject to intensive flooding mainly sea level wise. Like a storm surge. And what we’re really working on is a sweep of projects across Battery Park City that will help prevent future flooding, and protecting our Manhattan. And we’re starting off with Wagner Park and will begin construction by the end of the summer on elevating the park.

Alden: Just saying I am not for one side or the other because I’m new to this issue and gathering information at the moment, but a few other people that I have talked to are concerned about how long it will take to execute this project, with supply chain and other disruptions. What are your thoughts on that? 

Nick: Well, it will only take a few years and we will work as quickly and as safely as we can, but we’re just trying to prevent future flooding. 

These have been my interviews. I hope you enjoyed them, and took something from them. We all know how long construction can take in NYC. Is Wagner Park built on an old landfill and has the environmental impact of that been assessed? Can we all agree to preserve and save the soil? Is there a way to protect all the trees, while protecting future flooding also? Let’s get creative and figure out how to preserve what we have now, and conserve with an eye to the future also. The Billion Oysters Project is a good example of that. By the way, I’d like to know how much all this will cost and who is paying for it? Thank you, and have a great rest of your week!

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