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City Attempts to Develop Long-Stalled Greenpoint Park

By Meredith Hoffman | August 14, 2012 8:09am

GREENPOINT — Seven years after promising to deliver more than 30 acres of park land to Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the city is making a new attempt to deliver part of the space at 65 Commercial St. by Newtown Creek.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation Monday requested proposals for a developer to buy air rights to part of the land — a waterfront lot by Newtown Creek that still houses MTA trains — so that the city could afford to relocate the trams and to deliver the promised park.

The air rights, local park advocates explained, would allow a developer nearby to construct denser and higher buildings according to zoning rules. The land at 65 Commercial St. would remain in use by the city to create the park.

Williamsburg Council Member Stephen Levin, who has long advocated for the park, called the request for proposals a "significant step in the right direction for Greenpoint" and "hopefully a sign" that the city would work on the rest of its open space promises to the area.

"The release of the RFP is great for our community," he said. "Hopefully we'll all be enjoying a new park in North Brooklyn in the near future."

Another longtime Greenpoint park advocate who declined to give his name said the money from the air rights should go directly to affordable housing, which the city also promised in 2005.

"Through the sale they could fund the first phase of the park as well as the affordable housing promised as part of the plan," explained the source, but noted that the money should not be necessary to move the trams. 

"The sale of the air rights should have nothing to do with whether the park gets built," the source said. "One should not depend on the other."

But the city said that the money was necessary for the project's completion.

"The proceeds from the sale of the Development Rights will enable the City to relocate the MTA from the Commercial Street Lot, so that it can be utilized for the construction of a long planned waterfront park that will serve the City's residents," the city says on its website requesting proposals.

Claiming it was strapped for cash, the city admitted a few months ago that it lacked a concrete plan to provide the open space at 65 Commercial St. and along the rest of the Williamsburg waterfront.

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

Proposals for the purchase are due Aug. 30.