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Whose Bright Idea Was This? NYC Flood Plan To Cover Newly Renovated Park With Dirt

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A number of recently opened improvements at East River Park will soon be closed because of a sudden about-face in the city's flood protection plan.

Some park goers say the improvements were a bad use of taxpayer money if they're now going to be scrapped.

CBS2's Clark Fouraker spoke to people on the Lower East Side who are asking -- whose bright idea was this?

The city has plans to cover East River Park from Cherry to East 13th Streets with around 10 feet of fill dirt - a plan they say will protect the city from flooding.

"I get the kind of long term picture, but the benefits we get from it in the everyday would be taken away. I don't really see the point," Stuyvesant Town resident Emily McGee said.

The dirt carpet will cover well liked amenities like the running track, amphitheater, and other renovated fields.

East River Park (Credit: CBS2)

"It's the nicest track in the city. It always has been. And it's really used," SoHo resident Walter added.

Beyond the park being closed, some taxpayers are frustrated because they just finished footing the bill for upgraded features like the resurfaced running track which will now be covered over.

"It's kind of a waste of money and also it's a shame for the people that use it," NYU student Daniel Hawie said.

Last month, the city scrapped their previous flood prevention plan for this one, saying it would take less time to complete.

Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver spoke to CBS2 by phone and explained why the city completed the construction to update the amenities before they completed the study that led to the decision to raise the ground level of the park.

"About two-thirds of the way through construction is when we realized that it was time that we needed to do our value engineering study and then the result that you have before you was the decision to lift up the park."

The existing walkway next to the highway will be untouched, but the ground in the park will be elevated.

East River Park (Credit: CBS2)

The esplanade walkway along the East River will also be raised and connected to a newly constructed flood wall.

Construction starts in the spring of 2020 and is expected to be finished before the 2023 hurricane season.

The parks department added that the new plan cost $1.45 billion; more expensive than the original flood prevention plan.

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