Kiss goodbye to the Battery Park City we know and love.
The complex’s popular Hudson River waterfront faces imminent ruin — not from the far-fetched risk of a catastrophic future flood but from state environmental cowboys and their political trail dogs.
Soon after Labor Day, the 1.2-mile-long esplanade and its parallel lawns and walkways will begin transforming into a construction nightmare that might last a decade — all in the name of “protecting” it from a future storm surge that exists only in the fantasies of climate-change zanies.
The actual devastation comes at the hands of the state-controlled Battery Park City Authority. The damage is to start with Wagner Park, the 3.5-acre, magnificently sculpted and landscaped jewel at Battery Park City’s southern tip.
Wagner will be closed for at least two years. New Yorkers should howl, scream, and curse over the needless desecration of a public treasure.
The park boasts spectacular views of the river and the Statue of Liberty. Manicured green lawns invite sunbathers and sightseers. The grounds are home to the compelling-to-all-faiths Museum of Jewish Heritage as well as a popular restaurant in an elevated pavilion. It has been a hit since it opened in 1996 when New York Times architectural critic Paul Goldberger aptly called it “one of the finest public spaces New York has seen in at least a generation.”
Now its future is at the whims of bureaucrats. If and when the park emerges from state-sponsored hell, it will be a different, grotesquely warped Wagner Park — reconstructed 10 feet above its current height and unrecognizable from its present state.
Its glorious plantings, trees and lawns will be uprooted for a new park full of “exposed floodwalls,” “buried floodwalls” and “flip-up deployables.” Details for new landscaping and public spaces are vague.
The restaurant pavillion, home to Gigino’s, will mushroom from a scale-appropriate 3,450 square feet into a 10,000 square-foot colossus more suited to a “festival marketplace” in a lesser city.
The Jewish museum will remain open throughout the imminent upheaval, but it will be fenced and isolated.
The idea is supposedly to protect the park from a future storm surge. But to truly imperil Wagner Park would take a flood unseen since Biblical times — or one created in a Dreamworks special-effects studio.
It’s too late to stop the plan despite years of community unease and outrage. Without divine intervention, it might be the most heinous act of civic vandalism since the original Penn Station was demolished in the 1960s.
Superstorm Sandy in 2012 gave climate-change zealots the worst-case-scenarios they needed to demand tearing up lively, viable waterfronts, no matter the collateral damage to neighborhoods.
One justification for the BPC “resiliency” project was a 2013 FEMA prediction of future storm-surge levels that were two feet higher than City Hall’s experts thought possible. The city appealed the findings and, remarkably, FEMA in 2016 yielded to the city’s position and lowered its guesswork from 11.3 feet to 9.1 feet. Yet the BPCA used the discredited 2013 model in defending the need for effectively strip-mining Battery Park City.
The BPCA’s “Resilience Action Plan” for Wagner Park and a Draft Environmental Statement put people to sleep with endless technical details and immaterial topics such as “inclusive community” having nothing to do with flood threats.
The BPCA naturally cites Sandy’s impact in parts of the five boroughs. It didn’t let facts get in the way of propaganda. The Resilience Action Plan cites, among “critical shocks” to Battery Park City over the course of its existence, “the destruction from Superstorm Sandy in 2012.”
This is a lie. There was no destruction in Battery Park City. The sea surge that devastated parts of coastal New York didn’t lay a glove on Wagner Park or on the rest of Battery Park City except for a few patches of wet grass.
That was because the entire, landfill-based complex — especially Wagner Park — was designed to withstand just about any conceivable high water.
The $221 million Wagner boondoggle is to be followed by $631 million re-makes of certain of BPC’s northern sections for the same spurious reasons.
They’re similar to the city’s $1.45 billion Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency project, which has already gutted the much-loved East River Park along the Lower East Side and East Village where 991 trees are being destroyed so as to bury the park’s 57 acres under new landfill.
But the BPC schemes will enrich legions of engineers, architects, consultants and landscapers. Among them engineering firm AECOM, which was tapped during former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s term to lead a “multi-disciplinary team” to assemble a master “resiliency” plan for the entire Lower Manhattan waterfront.
AECOM, a favorite in Albany power circles, also consulted for the Empire State Development Corp. on the Buffalo Bills stadium issue. It recommended building a heavily-subsidized new home for the NFL team rather than renovate and upgrade its existing facility. The football scheme pushed by Gov. Hochul is widely and properly condemned as an unconscionable giveaway of taxpayer money.
But if you like Wagner Park the way it is, bring your camera phones now – because it won’t be there for long.