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City Admits it Has No Concrete Plan for Promised Waterfront Space

By Meredith Hoffman | June 14, 2012 4:56pm | Updated on June 14, 2012 5:35pm
A rendering of plans for Bushwick Inlet Park by Kiss and Cathcart Architects.
A rendering of plans for Bushwick Inlet Park by Kiss and Cathcart Architects.
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CITY HALL — Seven years after committing more than 30 acres of waterfront parks to Williamsburg, Bloomberg administration officials admitted Thursday they had no concrete plan to keep the promise.

"We remain committed to the project," mayoral adviser Carolee Fink told the City Council Thursday.

But she would only say they were "working on" delivering the promised land.

The project, which the city promised as part of Williamsburg's 2005 rezoning for residential use and high-rise developments, has barely made headway, with just one soccer field at North 12th Street now open to the public.

The plan includes the conversion of land at 65 Commercial St. — which the city already owns and uses to store MTA trams — into a park, as well as the acquisition of dozens of acres along the waterfront in North Williamsburg to create Bushwick Inlet Park.

"Unfortunately cuts needed to be made and this was one of them," said Joshua Laird, a Parks Department official. "We don't have a bottomless pit of money."

But City Council members, who tried to pull a solid timeline or budget information from the mayor's representatives, slammed the administration for making a promise it could not keep.

"In 18 months this administration is going to be out of office and the next administration is going to be stuck with your commitment," City Councilman Stephen Levin said.

Since there is no law binding one administration's promises to the next, Levin said the community could only hope future leaders would give them the open space.

"This compromises the ability for future administrations to operate in good faith," he said.

More than 20 local residents spoke up at the hearing, as well as a group who rallied in front of City Hall to fight for the park space.

"We have to stop further development of this area," said Dewey Thompson, co-chairman of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association and founder of North Brooklyn Boat Club.

Residents said they were overwhelmed by the rezoning's one-sided nature, drawing high-rise condos and thousands of new people, but void of necessary outdoor areas. And both local leaders and neighbors said the dilemma should heed a warning to future administrations' development promises.

"It's not enough to get a committment," said Leah Archibald, executive director of EWVIDCO, which works with Williamsburg industrial businesses. "There needs to be a funding scheme."