In the nearly three decades since Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park, a 3.5-acre green oasis built for leisure, opened in Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan, it has become a cherished backyard for residents and a destination for many others who come for the uninterrupted views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.
Now, an ugly fight has erupted over its fate.
Wagner Park is to be demolished and then rebuilt on higher ground by the Battery Park City Authority, a state-run public-benefit corporation, as part of a $221-million-plus resiliency plan to protect the south end of the neighborhood and Lower Manhattan from flooding, as climate change brings more intense and frequent storms and rising sea levels.
But the plan has drawn angry protests from some of the residents who live in the park’s surrounding high-rise towers. They say that demolishing the park goes too far. They have called for a less drastic approach that would make improvements to the existing park to achieve the same resiliency goal.
“It’s like, ‘In order to save the park, I have to destroy the park,’” said Kelly McGowan, 59, a finance executive who has lived in Battery Park City since 1989. “It makes no sense and we’re just trying to inject some rationality into this.”
A resiliency plan that cut down hundreds of trees in East River Park this year and last year drew fierce criticism from residents. (In Wagner Park, 48 trees will be removed, and 139 trees will be planted in the rebuilt park).
Such neighborhood conflicts are likely to become more common as resiliency plans are carried out by various city, state and federal agencies, which may take different approaches and not necessarily coordinate closely with one another or communicate effectively with residents.
“What the government is missing is a unified approach and a sole entity that is accountable to answer all the questions,” said Amy Chester, the managing director of Rebuild by Design, a nonprofit that works on making infrastructure more resilient.
virtual public meeting on Oct. 27.