City workers took chainsaws to tree limbs at Manhattan’s East River Park Saturday despite a court order halting the massive construction project.
Opponents of the $1 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency project, which will rebuild the park to prevent flooding, secured the temporary restraining order Wednesday from the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.
But the city went ahead anyway with the work, which will remove 1,000 trees from the greenway before it is rebuilt.
Some 80 protesters gathered and chanted “Stop the work! Stop the work!” as chainsaws buzzed.
The demonstrators, who argue the construction will harm the public greenspace, shook a fence surrounding the park and yelled “Stop what you are doing immediately. You are committing a crime!”
Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, who represents the Lower East Side, called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to “immediately halt” the tree-cutting.
“I’m appalled that the mayor and his team would toss aside a temporary restraining order granted by the Court of Appeals, but this is sadly emblematic of elected officials who view themselves as above the law and above accountability,” Niou said at the rally.
Arthur Schwartz, a lawyer who represents project opponents, said a city lawyer had told him the day before that the tree removal work would not resume again Friday.
“It was an underhanded move. I’m sure it was an underhanded move by our mayor, our soon-to-be former Mayor Bill de Blasio,” Schwartz said. “It’s despicable by a lawyer. It’s despicable by de Blasio.”
He said opponents would go back to court Monday and attempt to hold the city in contempt.
A spokesman for the Department of Design and Construction, which is overseeing the project, said the city had “reviewed the court’s written order and we do not believe it prevents us from continuing work on this vital resiliency project.”