FDR Drive tear-down and Manhattan land extension eyed in Downtown flood plan

This text was originally published on by THE CITY

The next waterfront and a decrease freeway could also be on faucet for Decrease Manhattan.

The town has a brand new proposal for safeguarding the Monetary District and Seaport from future flooding: extending the japanese fringe of Manhattan’s tip by as much as 188 ft — whereas elevating the shoreline and probably taking down the elevated FDR Drive from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Battery.

The town’s Financial Improvement Company plans to disclose a grasp plan for the FiDi – Seaport resilience project — first proposed by Mayor Invoice de Blasio in 2019 as a potential 500-foot extension of Decrease Manhattan into the harbor — by the top of the yr.

The idea developed from big-picture considering following Superstorm Sandy about learn how to defend low-lying elements of the island. Within the Monetary District, day by day excessive tides will probably flood the world two to a few blocks inland by 2100, in accordance with the EDC’s analysis of Federal Emergency Administration Company knowledge. By then, coastal storms may surge 18 ft above the present esplanade.

And inside that part of Manhattan is a dizzying array of essential infrastructure, each under floor and above — together with subway tunnels, workplace buildings, properties and utilities.

“I can’t imagine anywhere in the United States that is a bigger conundrum in terms of resilience infrastructure,” mentioned Melanie Dupuis, a Tempo College environmental research and science professor who has been keeping track of the undertaking. “If they can solve that one they can solve anything. They’ll have to solve it with money and lots of very innovative engineering.”

FDR Drive’s New Deal

The EDC will current updates at public meetings on Wednesday and Thursday. Forward of that, the EDC lately shared new design concepts with a community advisory group that’s been assembly privately for months to brainstorm in regards to the Seaport-FiDi plan.

On the group’s final assembly on Nov. 4, the company outlined its newest proposal for the practically mile-long stretch of waterfront on the east facet of Decrease Manhattan. In keeping with a number of members of the group and elements of EDC’s presentation shared with THE CITY, the proposal has morphed considerably for the reason that 2019 announcement.

The imaginative and prescient for a landfill extension into the harbor will probably not run 500 ft, however will as an alternative add sections between 90 ft and 188 ft at varied factors off the present japanese fringe of the island’s triangular finish.

Obtained by THE CITY
A rendering from the Financial Improvement Company exhibits with the FDR Drive’s elevated freeway eliminated Downtown.

Additionally trimmed is the concept that the brand new landmass may present growth websites for big, revenue-generating new buildings. The EDC’s present plan contains the potential for small, one- or two-story new buildings, however “no larger residential or office” buildings, a slide from the Nov. 4 presentation reads.

Massive change may very well be coming to the FDR Drive: The EDC is contemplating eradicating the present elevated freeway that runs from the Brooklyn Bridge all the way down to The Battery and changing the stretch with a street-level roadway.

Elijah Hutchinson, EDC’s vice chairman of neighborhood methods, confused that the freeway’s elimination is just not particular.

“We’re not proposing to remove the FDR Drive as part of this project, but what we are doing is designing it in a way so that we know if at some future date someone decides that the FDR Drive doesn’t need to be there anymore as a piece of infrastructure, our project still works,” he advised THE CITY.

The general plan is a number of years and billions of {dollars} away from turning into actuality. The EDC continues to be speaking to related events and must safe funding for the undertaking, whether or not federal or in any other case.

One advisory group member who spoke with THE CITY in regards to the plan on the situation of anonymity referred to as it “wishful thinking right now.”

“They’re looking at anywhere from $5 to $10 billion. They haven’t really priced it all out yet,” he mentioned. “Taking down the FDR at this point would cost a significant amount of money.”

Nonetheless, Decrease Manhattan residents THE CITY spoke with are taking significantly the EDC’s proposal, developed with enter from about 30 neighborhood and resiliency advocacy teams, in addition to members of local people boards and elected officers.

To Catherine McVay Hughes, a member of the undertaking’s advisory group, eradicating the elevated freeway “is a huge transformative opportunity for the east side.”

“People are very supportive of taking down the FDR. We need to invest in sneakers and bikes,” mentioned McVay Hughes, a Monetary District resident for greater than 30 years and a former chair of Manhattan’s Neighborhood Board 1. “If we’re going to transition away from a fossil fuel environment, it’s important to give people the opportunity to safely walk and bike around.”

A Way forward for Potentialities

To Amy Chester, managing director of Rebuild By Design, the Seaport-FiDi plan aligns with different conversations and initiatives across the county that intention “to reconnect neighborhoods that have been separated from their waterfronts, or from the neighborhood next door.” 

That features throughout the East River from Decrease Manhattan, the place newly handed federal infrastructure {dollars} have renewed speak of ripping up the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“I think with the new conversation about what the future of the BQE is has kind of reignited people’s thinking: What are the possibilities all over the city for the future?” she mentioned.

Aixa Torres, a longtime tenant chief of the Smith Homes on the Decrease East Facet and a member of the resiliency undertaking advisory group, is extra skeptical.

She’s involved that eradicating a part of the elevated freeway would flood the streets across the Smith Homes, positioned subsequent to the freeway simply north of the Brooklyn Bridge, with autos.

“We’re going to get all that traffic,” she mentioned. “I mean, it’s bad enough we get the fumes from the FDR Drive that’s elevated, and then from the bridge. But then if you bring it down to our level — you know, it’s just crazy.”

Courtesy NYCEDC
An artist’s rendering of what the resiliency undertaking modifications may appear to be for the east facet of Decrease Manhattan.

In keeping with state Division of Transportation data, the typical quantity of site visitors on the drive between the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the Brooklyn Bridge was 50,926 autos per day in 2019, the newest yr for which knowledge is offered.

That’s loads of wheels. However relative to different sections of the FDR, the site visitors complete is low.

Simply north on the freeway, between the Brooklyn Bridge and East Houston Road, common day by day site visitors was 136,765 autos in 2019, DOT knowledge exhibits. Between East Houston and East twenty third Road, common day by day site visitors introduced 125,622 autos in the identical yr.

Bruce Schaller, a transportation marketing consultant and former deputy commissioner for site visitors and planning in town’s DOT, mentioned the southernmost part of the FDR Drive is “an important link” in town’s regional journey system — however acknowledged it’s greater than it must be.

“It’s way overbuilt right now,” he mentioned, whereas including that will probably be affected in the long run by the potential modifications on the BQE, in addition to congestion pricing.

If town had been to convey down the FDR to an at-grade roadway, it will want to determine learn how to sluggish the site visitors and enable pedestrians to cross safely to entry the waterfront.

Slips Sliding Away

The newest model of the EDC’s plan is the results of no less than two years of labor gathering enter from New Yorkers in regards to the resilience undertaking and vetting of various prospects for the slender strip of waterfront that’s a major goal for extra excessive climate attributable to local weather change.

A lot of the Monetary District itself is already constructed on landfill. Water and Pearl streets as soon as ran alongside the waterfront; the assorted “slips” — Pike Slip, Rutgers Slip, Peck Slip — denote the names of Colonial-era boat docks.

At this time, the low-lying neighborhood is residence to among the densest actual property in town and waterfront infrastructure: the Staten Island and Governors Island ferry terminals, Decrease Manhattan heliport and Piers 11, 15, 16 and 17.

An early iteration of the plan proposes reconstructing the Whitehall Ferry Terminal, creating a brand new terminal for the Governor’s Island ferry and preserving the Battery Maritime Constructing with out the ferry slips.

The plan might also embrace the reconstruction of piers 15 and 16. A brand new helipad and Pier 11 for ferries could be constructed upon new buildings over the water. 

The built-out coastal infrastructure would come with a sequence of flood gates and partitions, together with on the South Road Seaport’s Pier 17. The brand new design may increase the bottom as much as 18 ft larger on the highest degree.

For McVay Hughes, the work couldn’t come quick sufficient. She implored native, state and federal leaders to maneuver rapidly to complete the design and lock in funding.

“We need to get a shovel in the ground,” she mentioned.

‘Critical for a Resilient NYC’

A number of locals concerned in the neighborhood advisory group expressed cautious optimism in regards to the planning course of. Particularly, these concerned appeared relieved and inspired that the EDC had ditched the thought of together with growth websites on the potential shoreline extension.

“It’s not Seaport City,” mentioned one downtown resident acquainted with the newest proposals, referring to the Bloomberg-era idea for a new neighborhood built onto the East River.

That concept, additionally floated on the tail finish of a mayoral administration, by no means noticed the sunshine of day. Whether or not the present Seaport-FiDi proposal sinks or swims depends on who carries it by way of past the de Blasio administration.

Hiram Alejandro Durán/ THE CITY
The FDR Drive close to the Battery Maritime Constructing, Nov. 12, 2021.

“The history of the waterfront is the history of the mayoral administrations. Every mayor has wanted to make a mark on the waterfront,” Dupuis mentioned. “What kind of mark is [Mayor-elect Eric] Adams going to make?”

In his personal waterfront and resiliency plan unveiled in September, Adams pointed to  “work[ing] with the State and federal government to fully fund the missing areas of the Lower Manhattan resilience plans” as a precedence for administration.

“Securing this area is about a lot more than just these two neighborhoods,” Hutchinson mentioned. “It’s really critical for having a resilient New York as a whole.”

THE CITY is an impartial, nonprofit information outlet devoted to hard-hitting reporting that serves the individuals of New York.

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