East River Park Plants Decimated by Hurricane Sandy

By DNAinfo Staff on December 11, 2012 8:41am

UPPER EAST SIDE — The chemical cocktail of salty sea and polluted river waters that made up Hurricane Sandy's storm surge could kill 90 percent of plants in an Upper East Side park, officials fear.

Andrew Haswell Green Park, located at the East River between East 59th and East 63rd Streets, was completely submerged in the salty soup, potentially hurling a deadly blow to all but the sturdiest species, according to Mark Vaccaro, a Parks Department manager.

Though most botanicals can withstand up to 20 minutes of submersion — even of salinated or toxic water — the floodwaters soaked the East River park for much longer, Vaccaro warned at a recent Community Board 8 Parks Committee meeting.

"The longer it stays, the deeper it penetrates," he said, adding that different waterfront areas were "hit in a sporadic manner" because of the shape of the esplanade and of FDR Drive.

"The chances of 90 percent of that plant matter surviving is slim to none. If some of the trees make it, we'll be happy."

Vacarro did say that the park's dog run remained relatively unscathed, as did most of the pavement and a pavilion overlooking the waterfront.

"We will have to see in the spring if there was any lasting damage to the park’s horticulture, due to it being submerged by salt water from the river," a Parks Department spokesman said. "The rain we’ve had these past few days though will be of assistance in diluting the effect from the salt water."

At John Jay Park, located between East 76th and East 78th Streets on FDR drive, flood waters damaged the boiler in the locker and public restroom building, Vaccaro and the spokesman said. 

"We are currently working to restore heat to the facility so that the restrooms may reopen to the public," the spokesman said.

That might cost from $350,000 to $500,000 to repair, Vaccaro said at the meeting.

These damages have prompted some CB8 members to consider the esplanade's long-term look in a broader context — namely, whether current plans would be sustainable in the event of another 100-year storm.

"Maybe we do need to think higher," CB8 Parks Co-Chairwoman Barbara Rudder said.

The developments at Andrew Haswell park come after department officials said in June that they must replace the pilings holding up the park to prevent it from falling into the East River. This project is projected to cost $15 million.

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