The East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR)



The East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR) is a result of BIG’s winning proposal for the “Big U,” part of the federal Rebuild by Design competition, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development initiated and funded. The Big U was conceived as an integrated coastal flood protection system around lower Manhattan, which aimed to shield the City from storm surge and coastal flooding and provide social and environmental benefits to the community. The project envisioned a resiliency infrastructure that would simultaneously act as “social infrastructure” by offering amenities to waterfront communities while improving access to the waterfront, creating new public spaces, and enhancing natural areas. The competition proposal consisted of separate, functionally independent but coordinated plans for three contiguous regions, dubbed “compartments.” The ESCR project is the first of these compartments to advance from the Big U concept and spans 2.5 miles of Manhattan’s east side. Current funding for the project totals $1.45 billion and includes $338 million in CDBG-DR funds, $942 million in City Capital funds, and $170 million in City Capital water rate funds for interior drainage management.

An extensive community engagement program has been a hallmark of this project, including dozens of stakeholder meetings, quarterly joint community board Waterfront Task Force Meetings, Open Houses, and regular public engagement workshops. The team has held more than 500+ public workshops with over 20 City agencies, totaling more than 1000 participants from the community and surrounding neighborhoods who provided input. Taken together, the ESCR Project builds physical, social, and economic resiliency – strengthening the City’s coastline while re-establishing public space, enabling outdoor gathering opportunities, and improving waterfront accessibility. Proposed programming within ESCR replaces existing programming while introducing additional passive and multi-use spaces into the park. This includes replacement and, in some cases, relocation of sports programming (soccer fields, baseball/softball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, and multi-purpose fields), play areas, and fitness areas. Reconstruction of East River Park is an opportunity to better integrate these uses into the park as a whole and upgrade facilities as necessary to meet current standards. Furthermore, the proposed raised topography of the park and the alignment of flood protection nearer the waterfront within East River Park raises these programs above the design elevation of 16.5 feet NAVD88, helping to protect important park program from future storm damage and closures, and helps to ensure that these parks remain attractive, functional, and safe despite future sea level rise and storm events.