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Massive Williamsburg Fire Sparks Hope for Long-Promised Park

By Serena Dai | February 4, 2015 4:36pm
 The city promised in 2005 to build 28 acres of park space at Bushwick Inlet Park.
The city promised in 2005 to build 28 acres of park space at Bushwick Inlet Park.
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

WILLIAMSBURG — Local residents are hoping a long-promised park will rise out of the ashes of Saturday's still-smoldering waterfront fire.

A CitiStorage building went up in flames over the weekend, with documents feeding the blaze that firefighters continued to battle on Wednesday, according to FDNY.

Aside from discussing potential health issues, residents have also been wondering what the fire means for Bushwick Inlet Park — which former Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to expand onto the CitiStorage property in 2005.

The city has yet to purchase the land from owner Norm Brodsky, and rumors have been flying that another buyer may swoop in and build new property there.

Some locals are hoping that attention to the site will reignite conversations about building more waterfront access for the public.

"It is a critical tipping point," said Laura Treciokas, a neighbor and member of Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning. "Something is going to happen. If somebody else buys this property to use it [for manufacturing], you can pretty much kiss the park goodbye."

The fire was a tragedy, especially for Brodsky, who had a home in the building, said Councilman Stephen Levin.

But more eyes on the land in the wake of the blaze may remind the city that it still has an obligation to build the park, he said.

"The city has done emininent domain many, many times over the years," Levin said. "It certainly can buy the land. It’s a question of will."

Bloomberg promised locals 28 acres of parks as part of a 2005 rezoning that's led to the waterfront residential towers that exist today.

Nearly 10 years later, only the Bushwick Inlet Park building and soccer field has materialized.

By spring, the city will finish paying off $68.5 million to acquire the 7.3-acre Bayside Fuel building, leaving just the CitiStorage and Monitor Museum parcels left, according to the Parks Department.

There's currently no plan or funding in place from the city to buy the remaining land, the city said, and it's unclear how much money would be needed.

Brodsky is legally allowed to sell the land, which is zoned for manufacturing, to someone else. He did not return a request for comment.

The city's failure to make the park happen has been "frustrating" and "distressing," said Adam Perlmutter, chairman of the Open Space Alliance, noting the fire should push elected officials and Mayor Bill de Blasio to look at the space again, Perlmutter said.

Resident Jonathan Burkan said he thinks more people will start asking questions about the open space once the fire dies down and the damaged building gets razed.

"Psychologically, it gives you some hope," Burkan said. "You have a whole empty space. You can visualize it. You can put a park there."