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Brooklyn Flea to Rob Williamsburg of Rare Park Space, Locals Worry

WILLIAMSBURG — After years pushing for East River State Park to open on the Williamsburg waterfront, some locals fear the Brooklyn Flea is about to rob them of their valuable green space.

Since the state announced that the popular markets Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg would move from a developer's land to the park this spring, some residents have been up in arms over their loss of open space to crowds and commerce.

"I've lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and we've had a commercial explosion, and now commerce is going to be taking over our park," said Louisa Campbell, a local writer and educator who frequents the park. "I won't use the park when the flea is there."

Campbell said that the flea's popularity was "great for the flea but bad for the park," and claimed the state "made a mistake" in hosting the giant market, which will take up about an eighth of the park.

Laura Treciokas, co-chairwoman of the group Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park which has fought for the community's promised green space, agreed that the market would strain a rare resource.

"While the flea was a fun and popular addition to the neighborhood it's a shame that its continued presence comes at the cost of open space which is already in short supply here," said Treciokas, who relies on parks for recreation with her baby daughter.

And longtime resident and activist Christine Murray said the move was one more example of the government failing to acknowledge the neighborhood's need for green space.

"It is a shame to lose East River State Park on the weekends for Brooklyn Flea. We have so little green space in North Brooklyn," she said. "When are government officials gonna stand up for our open space?"

Members of Greenpoint and Williamsburg Association for Parks and Planning said they hoped the market would remain only on the concrete section of the park, and said they understood residents' worries.

"Our concern is that it will take up vital park space in an area that ranks lowest per capita in the city in terms of parks," said GWAPP member Ryan Watson. "If the market takes place mostly on the concrete area we don’t have opposition but if it spills out beyond that our concern is that families coming to use the very small amount of park land will get shut out of that public space."

But representatives from the New York State Department of Parks said that the flea would only take up an "underutilized" concrete portion of the park.

"The Brooklyn Flea events are open to the public and will be an option welcomed by many park visitors," a Parks spokesman said. "They will be limited to 40,000 square feet, leaving the remainder of the seven-acre park open for other park uses. They will take place on a concrete slab well-suited for special events, but currently underutilized."

And Ryan Kuonen, a member of the local non-profit Neighbors Allied for Good Growth of Brooklyn, said she understood why the state took on the markets.

"We're pretty aware of the budgetary situation of the parks, and they need to do events to make money," Kuonen said. "Some people think it's going to take over the whole park, but I don't think it will."

Kuonen noted that the flea was meant to remain on the concrete section, not the grassy part, of the park, and said the biggest challenge would be managing trash.

"It'll be a challenge for the Parks Department to make sure it stays clean," she said, "but the Brooklyn Flea has always been a good neighbor."