Affordable Housing Moves Forward at 20th Street Park Site

By Mathew Katz on October 17, 2011 12:26pm 

Supporters of the 20th Street Park project posed for a photo on May 1, 2011.
Supporters of the 20th Street Park project posed for a photo on May 1, 2011.
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Friends of 20th Street Park

CHELSEA — It might be the beginning of the end for the 20th Street Park.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development said it is set to move forward with plans to build affordable housing on an empty Chelsea lot that neighbors want to see turned into a park, after rejecting 26 alternative sites for the project put forward by park advocates and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. 

"Unfortunately, none of the sites have presented themselves as viable alternatives," Eric Bederman, HPD spokesman, said in an email. "We will continue work with the Speaker to accept and review other options, but at this time our plans for development remain unchanged."

Working with Quinn's office, advocates from Friends of 20th Street Park had submitted the list of sites to HPD last month, along with letters of support for a park at what's currently a 10,000 square foot Department of Sanitation lot at 136 W. 20th St.

Quinn's office did not respond for comment now that HPD has said no to the alternative sites. The department did not give a timeline on when construction on the affordable housing would begin.

Advocates have been pushing for a park on the site since last year, citing the lack of parks in the east Chelsea area. The neighborhood's Community Board 4 ranks last in Manhattan for proximity to parks, local leaders have said.

Matt Weiss, the chair of Friends of 20th Street Park, said that he hadn't gotten any response from HPD since submitting the alternate sites, and was surprised to hear that none were viable.

"Our supporters remain confused by the agency's pursuit of the last remaining parcel of open space in park-starved east Chelsea, despite the existence of four vacant, city-owned HPD buildings in this very same neighborhood that continue to deteriorate daily," he said.

Pro-park advocates and Quinn's office said they want a "win-win" solution: turning the West 20th Street lot into a park as well as finding a site for new affordable housing in the area.

"I believe in the need for both more open space and more affordable housing in Chelsea and throughout my Council District," Quinn wrote in a newsletter to Chelsea residents. "My office will continue to do its due-diligence to ensure that no stone is left unturned in our endeavor of reaching a win-win solution."

This is not the first time advocates hit a roadblock in their quest to turn this into a green space.

In January, Community Board 4 declared the debate over the site closed. But that hasn't stopped the Friends group from setting up a table every Sunday since the spring in front of the Lyons Wier Gallery at 175 Seventh Ave., where supporters pass out literature on the park and gather signatures for a petition.

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