East River Park Activists Chain Themselves to Tree, Make Weirdly Modest Demand

Photo: Aresh Javadi

Because of its proximity to both the mayor and City Council, City Hall Park is a favorite location for protests. But this morning there was something different than the usual rallies and chants: At 7:30 a.m., two women, JK Canepa and Jmac, locked their arms around the trunk of a tree and encased their joined hands in hard-to-remove sections of PVC pipe. The pair says they’ll stay there until the city council takes new action on the East Side Coastal Resiliency plan, which calls for East River Park to be bulldozed and rebuilt with new flood protections. Oddly enough, the high drama of the action isn’t exactly matched by their demands, which are entirely procedural: They are insisting that City Council Speaker Corey Johnson hold an oversight hearing. More than six hours later, they are still embracing that tree.

“We’re not asking Corey Johnson to take a red pen and x out everything,” said Canepa, who is 68. “What we’re asking him to do is to allow questions to be asked and answered. To be democratic.” Some of the two dozen people involved with the protest hold out hope that the city might somehow revert to an earlier plan that would wreak less havoc on the park. But the session they’re demanding wouldn’t guarantee anything — it would just be another opportunity to ask questions about the plan.

Johnson has not yet got in touch with the group, though a representative from the mayor’s office has and is mediating between his office and the demonstrators. That’s not going to get anyone unlocked though. “We don’t want a meeting,” Canepa said. “We want an oversight hearing, and we want to hear it from Corey himself.”

Park Activists Chain Themselves to Tree, Make Modest Demand