Our beloved park, Wagner Park -- the heart and soul of our community, is at risk of being demolished by the Battery Park City Authority and their AECOM contractors -- the same firm that led the East River Park destruction.
National Register-Eligible Wagner Park was built in 1996 and constructed with resiliency in mind for a 100-year flood. It is historically and culturally significant as it won multiple awards and influenced a new body of thought in urban design.
We do not disagree on the need for resiliency, but on the design of the project. We want a greener and more environmentally friendly project -- one that prioritizes green space and does not increase commercial space. We want to preserve mature trees, maximize green space and leverage green infrastructure as much as possible to prevent and protect from climate risks.
We want a project based on the latest science: IPCC, NASA and NOAA. Currently, New York uses NPCC which is out of sync with these three other sources and a FEMA model the city knows is scientifically invalid.
The Authority consistently states that public engagement has been going on for years and was robust. Yes, it has been going on for years, but critical feedback was consistently ignored. Starting in 2017, the Community Board wrote resolutions and letters opposing the scope and design.
These resolutions and letters (5/23/17, 9/26/17, 12/19/18, 2/25/20) that question the need to demolish Wagner Park. The CB1 letter dated October 12, 2022, that reiterates their past and current position.
Excerpt from 9/26/17 resolution shown to the right
In 2022, the Broadsheet published feedback one of our CB1 leaders submitted to the Authority on Wagner:
"Justine Cuccia, who chairs CB1’s Battery Park City Committee... submitted a comment that said (in part), “The Wagner Park Site Assessment Project does NOT significantly take into account the feedback from the Battery Park City community or CB1, who have consistently stated that money, attention and effort have been focused on demolition of the present, award-winning structure—rather than focusing primarily on what is MINIMALLY REQUIRED to enhance the resiliency of Wagner Park. The BPCA has stubbornly persisted with their plan to increase revenue-generating assets within Wagner Park, at the expense of greenspace and open parks. Therefore, I call upon the BPCA to cease and desist with the current plan and radically SIMPLIFY the Wagner Park Design, which will limit the area of construction, reduce the cost of the project, and likely mean that Wagner Park is closed for a shorter period of time.”
The community has an Alternative Design, created by renowned architects and landscape designers who worked on the Battery Park City Master Plan and originally designed Wagner Park.
We are forever grateful to the team at Olin, led by Lucinda Sanders, CEO, Olin and the team at Machado Silvetti, led by Jeffry Burchard, Associate Professor at Harvard University.
Our plan prioritizes green infrastructure, minimal impact and meaningful community engagement. This plan will provide the same level of protection from climate risk, but adds green spaces, preserves mature trees, has a lower carbon footprint, is cheaper to implement and will keep Wagner Park intact.
The Authority likes to portray the opposition to their plan as a small minority. However, there is broad based support for the alternative design. This sampling of organizations represent thousands and thousands of constituents.
The Sierra Club first wrote the Authority in November 2022 asking them to support the community's alternative plan.
They wrote "It is clear that there is a path forward to provide protection from climate risks in a significantly less destructive way... There is no doubt that it will be far faster and far cheaper to install."
Still, the Authority ignored the voice of a leading environmental group as it asked them to consider a better, cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative.
After years of the feedback to leave Wagner Park intact being ignored and with no response even to the Sierra Club, we decided to take the Authority to court.
In December 2022, the BPCNA filed a petition asking for work to be paused to give meaningful consideration to a better, less destructive resiliency plan. We received a court-ordered agreement will prohibit any demolition on Wagner Park until court evaluates the legal violations alleged by the Community. Read the Press Release. The Authority answered our petition on Jan 13, 2023 and we submitted our response at the end of Jan 2023. Unfortunately, NY court judge Sabrina Kraus denied our request and issued her judgement on Feb 10, 2023.
The court ruled that the Authority is not required to select the better alternative design and they have the authority to pick the plan of their choosing.
The Sierra Club then writes another letter in March 2023, this time to Governor Kathy Hochul asking her to intervene.
It says "the cost of the Authority's plan significantly exceeds that of the community's alternative solution. The State or Authority could certainly use the cost savings for other critical environmental or social needs... such private sector commercial expansion should never justify destroying a public park and its trees at needless taxpayer expense"
We beg our elected officials and Governor Hochul herself to use her powers to intervene on Wagner Park in favor of a better plan that is cheaper, greener, and more environmentally friendly.
The community here will not forget that there was a better, less destructive and more environmentally friendly way to protect from climate risk.
Stipulation and Petition
Signed Stipulation December 14, 2022
Stipulation Exhibit A December 14, 2022
Stipulation Briefing December 14, 2022
Notice of Motion for Preliminary Injunction December 14, 2022
Notice of Petition December 14, 2022
Request for Judicial Intervention December 14, 2022
Lawyer Affirmation December 14, 2022
Lawyer Affirmation Exhibit 1 FEIS (excerpt)
Lawyer Affirmation Exhibit 2 SEQRA Findings Statement (excerpt)
Lawyer Affirmation Exhibit 3 Coastal Modeling Study (excerpt)
Lawyer Affirmation Exhibit 4 Appeal Letter to FEMA (excerpt)
Lawyer Affirmation Exhibit 5 FEMA press release
Lawyer Affirmation Exhibit 6 BPCNA Letter, July 8, 2022
Lawyer Affirmation Exhibit 7 NASA Regional Projections for the Battery
BPCNA Affidavit December 14, 2022
BPCNA Affidavit Exhibit 8 Letter from Local Officials
BPCNA Affidavit Exhibit 9 Letter to Gov. Hochul from Local Officials
BPCNA Affidavit Exhibit 10 James Hamilton Thompson III Affidavit
BPCNA Affidavit Exhibit 11 Yvette Yasui Affidavit
BPCNA Affidavit Exhibit 12 Jennifer Jones Affidavit
Cost: $10,000 flat fee for lawyers to read FEIS and outline case + $20,000 flat fee to file lawsuit + ~$11,000 to file response to the BPCA response to lawsuit