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Developer Wants to Bulldoze Play Areas for Chelsea Parking Spots

By Mathew Katz | July 10, 2013 6:47am
  The proposal is part of an affordable housing development on West 18th Street.
Developer Would Axe Playground to Create Parking Spots
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CHELSEA — A plan to build a huge new affordable housing development next to the Fulton Houses could demolish two children's play areas, including a playground, sprinkler and community gardens, and replace them with parking spots.

In 2005, Artimus Construction was chosen by the city to build a 100-unit development of low, moderate and middle-income housing in a space that's currently occupied by dumpsters and parking spaces on West 18th Street between Ninth and 10th avenues.

Artimus originally pledged to replace the lost parking with an underground garage, but now intends to destroy play areas used by local kids to create spaces for cars. The dumpsters would get moved to a parking lot one block north.

Enraged parents watching kids at the playgrounds this week said they could not believe the developer was even considering the plan.

"It's terrible," said Nina Fernandez, 23, as her 5-year-old son Tyjae enjoyed the fountain. "It's taking away from all these kids. I played here all the time when I was growing up. I want my son to."

Fernandez said the playground is used by thousands of kids, including those living in the Fulton Houses as well as children from other nearby buildings and schools.

"I like getting wet," said Tyjae before running off to play in the sprinkler.

According to a copy of the plan obtained by DNAinfo New York, the proposal would destroy two community gardens, a sprinkler and a basketball court on the north side of West 17th Street to create 17 parking spaces, and would demolish a well-used playground south of West 17th Street to make 12 more.

The plan, which requires a zoning change and was just certified by the City Planning Department, would also expand the new building — creating 153 units of new affordable housing, instead of the originally proposed 100.

Fulton Houses Tenants Association President Miguel Acevedo got wind of the plan last week, and immediately began rallying tenants against it.

"It's always covered in kids. This is the busiest playground we have," he said. "The parking lot, it was always intended to be underground."

He added that the garden that would be displaced was also popular among residents who used it to grow their own vegetables. The current parking spaces are also used by the community for outdoor events in the summertime.

Artimus did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The site's developer is also going to get a roughly $5 million payout from Jamestown Properties as part of that company's contribution to an affordable housing fund agreed upon when it was given permission to expand Chelsea Market.

Artimus, the city's Department of Housing, Preservation and Development and the Fulton Houses Tenants Association is planning a public forum on the proposal Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Fulton Community Center, 119 Ninth Ave.

For lifelong Fulton Houses resident Daniel Rosado, 24, it's enraging that the debate even got to this point.

"We've got kids getting into drugs, shooting, stabbings, now that they have nothing to do," Rosado said while watching his 2-year-old daughter play.

"If anything, we should cut the parking lots out and put more parks for the kids."