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Construction on part of a massive $1.5 billion project to protect Manhattan from flooding that had been temporarily halted can now go forward, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.
Over 100 Lower East Side residents and activist groups sued last year to block part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project — which will span 2.4 miles on the east side of Manhattan — claiming the plans needed prior approval from the state legislature.
The group claimed the project, which will raise esplanades, parks and piers and put in place flood breaks and sea walls, will destroy the East River Park.
But on Tuesday, the Appellate Division, First Department upheld a lower court’s decision to toss the suit, finding that the City Council — which approved the project in November 2019 — didn’t need additional approval from the state.
“We do not discount petitioner’s concerns that this project will impose a burden on the surrounding community that houses tens of thousands of residents,” Tuesday’s decision read.
The court documents noted that during the estimated five-year project, roughly 40 percent of the park will be closed for construction.
“The city expects that any burden caused by the project will be rewarded with a rejuvenated East River Park that is well protected from future storm surges, allowing the park to fulfill its role as a recreational area for many years and future generations,” the ruling continued.
City Corporation Counsel Georgia M. Pestana said she’s thrilled the court sided with the city’s arguments in the case.
“This is a big win for New Yorkers, especially those living in an area impacted by climate change and severe storms,” Pestana said in a statement. “We are pleased to be able to move forward to fortify the park and protect the surrounding community for generations to come.”
The Department of Design and Construction said the project “will protect the Lower East Side form storm surges and tidal flooding while also transforming parks and open spaces throughout the area.”
Arthur Schwartz, a lawyer for the petitioners in the case, said he disagreed with the ruling and said he planned to take his appeal to the highest court in New York State.
“We think that the Court of Appeals will be interested in reviewing it and we will be going there,” Schwartz said.
A separate but related suit was filed earlier this month claiming that the contract for the project doesn’t meet city and federal hiring-quota goals for involving minority- and women-owned businesses.
The Department of Design and Construction denied the allegations, claiming they complied with all diversity requirements.
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