Staying Dry: A Flood Protection Plan Set In Motion for Battery Park City

A new building with a two-level restaurant and roof garden is planned to replace the current pavilion as part of an overall redesign of Wagner Park that will make the area more resilient to flooding. Rendering: Perkins Eastman

Mar. 27, 2017

Battery Park City is getting ready to gird itself against the next Superstorm Sandy—or worse.

The Battery Park City Authority and its consultants have devised a system of barriers against the anticipated rising sea levels and coming storms that could deal a destructive blow to the city and this riverside neighborhood over the next many years.

The plan, said Gwen Dawson, the BPCA’s senior vice president in charge of asset management, is to create a network of barriers (up to a height of 16.5 feet above sea level) wherever the riverside neighborhood is vulnerable to flooding. During Sandy, most inundation came from West Street, the northern end near Stuyvesant High School and from the south, around Wagner Park. “This is not the end of it,” Dawson said of the 2012 flooding, “and we are actually anticipating a much greater storm activity and with much greater impact over time.”

The plan grows out of a two-year infrastructure study by the consultants Parsons Transportation.

Through its Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project, the city is studying ways to protect Lower Manhattan (from Montgomery Street on the Lower East Side around to the north end of Battery Park City) but so far lacks the federal funds needed to implement a plan, estimated at $234 million. The authority, however, is a state agency that can issue bonds to pay for its part of the project.

“Battery Park City has the ability to fund this without having to go out to get those kinds of funds,” said BPCA President Shari Hyman, noting that the agency is coordinating its plans with the city. “We’re on a timeline to do this through capital expenditures by Battery Park City.” The authority has not said how much that will cost but Dawson, at a BPCA board meeting last week, put the cost at “tens of millions of dollars, not hundreds of millions of dollars” because of existing barriers such as walls and gardens.

The authority presented its plans at the BPCA’s community meeting on March 22. They are subject to modification and will likely be phased in over time, beginning with the north and south ends of the neighborhood, which are most vulnerable, Dawson said. She added that the next steps will be detailed engineering and design for the project. Below are excerpts from that presentation. For the full slide presentations click here and here.


During Superstorm Sandy, flood waters flowed river-like down West Street, submerging and destroying the $3 million Battery Park City ball fields. Planners are considering a protective network of masonry garden walls around the fields. Deployable barriers would shield entry points to the fields when needed. The wall would vary in height from two to three feet at the western end to eight or nine feet near the corner of Warren and West streets, where elevation is the lowest.



In Battery Park City’s north neighborhood, the wall along River Terrace would be reconstructed to reach the required protective elevation of 16.5 feet, with deployable barriers at wall openings and entrances. Farther south, at Brookfield Place, a flood barrier would be built at the North Cove.

The south neighborhood would have a similar network of raised walls running along the esplanade as well as new garden walls built into the planted areas, with deployable barriers at pedestrian walkways in some spots such as Third Place, shown below. At Rector Place, where there is a larger gap and more planted area, there would be a combination of tiered plantings and flood barrier. “The lightest touch possible,” said Joe Ganci, the authority's director of design. “If we can build in spaces that are open planters and not limit restriction or access to the park, that’s what we’re trying.”


Architectural consultants from Perkins Eastman have come up with a resiliency plan for the park that enlarges the ornamental gardens and adds two more gardens, expands the lawn, and replaces the current pavilion. They also see the opportunity to dock boats for educational programming and, near the Museum of Jewish Heritage, add space for a small stage and additional seating.

Columns that would support deployable barriers, like these below on the Georgetown waterfront, could be integrated into the park’s design.

Calling the area around Pier A “a little unfinished,” landscape architect Barbara Wilks is proposing to add a new garden that slopes down to the waterfront, segmented into wetland, meadow and woodland. A footbridge over the water would provide a direct connection between the esplanade at Wagner Park and Pier A. Several paths would add links between the park and the esplanade. “The idea is to take the woodland that's on the edge of the lawn and let it slope down slowly into the water making a wetland,” Wilks said. This could be a whole other kind of experience, with meandering paths and also an overlook.”



The pavilion would be replaced with a building of the same footprint but with a second story, now imagined to have a two-level restaurant with roof garden seating. Maintenance, security offices and restrooms would also be housed in the building as well as what is being called a “community room.” The renderings shown here are not a final design but are meant to illustrate what architect Stanton Eckstut of Perkins Eastman said will be “much lighter, more transparent and offering shade from its canopies.”

The bottom line,” Eckstut said of the overall concept for Wagner Park, “is a much greener park, with a lot of enhanced gardens and a way of enjoying the landscape.