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Hundreds of Williamsburg Locals Demand Promised Park from 2005 Rezoning

By Serena Dai | March 12, 2015 5:47pm
 Hundreds of Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents flooded City Hall steps on Thursday afternoon to demand that the city fulfill its promise to build 28-acres of park space on the Williamsburg waterfront.
Hundreds of Williamsburg Locals Demand Promised Park Space
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CITY HALL — More than 300 residents flooded City Hall steps Thursday afternoon in a rally demanding that the city fulfill its promise to finish building a park on the Williamsburg waterfront.

In 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to build nearly 30 acres of park land as part of a rezoning deal allowing high-rises along the waterfront.

But a decade later, the city still hasn't initiated plans to acquire the portion of land where a CitiStorage building currently is. A massive fire that destroyed one of CitiStorage's buildings sparked hundreds of locals to remind the city that the promise of park land had not yet been fulfilled.

There isn't enough existing park space for the increasing number of residents and young people, locals said.

Christopher O'Connell, 51, has been coaching soccer at Bushwick Inlet Park and said that the demand for space to play sports is some 75 percent more than the park can handle.

"All the towers have been built," he said. "But the park isn't here. [I feel] let down."

The planned park would have six lots, of which the city has acquired three, the Parks Department said.

Since 2005, only Bushwick Inlet Park's building and soccer field has been built, at a cost of $150 million for acquisition and $25.8 million for development, according to the Parks Department.

The city also plans to finish paying off $68.5 million for the 7.3-acre Bayside Fuel building this spring, leaving the CitiStorage and Monitor Museum parcels left for acquisition, according to the Parks Department.

The city has no schedule or funding to buy the CitiStorage land, though the fire did initiate an environmental assessment process that will inform the city's decision-making "on when and if" to acquire it, the department said.

In 2006, the property was estimated to cost $19 million, and in 2011, CitiStorage owner Norm Brodsky told The New York Times he would take about $120 million for the land.

The city does not plan to acquire the Monitor Museum parcel after the museum and advocacy groups opposed the acquisition, the Parks Department said.

"NYC Parks continues to take substantive steps toward the development of Bushwick Inlet Park’s additional parcels," the Parks Department said in a statement.

The mayor's office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Brodsky could legally sell the CitiStorage land to someone else to use for manufacturing purposes, which locals said would kill any hope for the park and makes the city's actions more urgent.

The park's completion has implications for rezoning plans in the rest of the city, locals and elected officials said.

If the city doesn't follow through on this, neighborhoods like East New York should be wary of any amenities the city promises to them in exchange for rezoning, too, they said.

Councilman Steve Levin, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to fulfill Bloomberg's promise.

"The amenities must come first," Velazquez said. "This is our fight for fairness."

North Brooklyn has some of the worst green space-to-resident ratios in the city, according to statistics compiled by open space advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks.

Even once the park is finished, it would still only meet the needs of 60 percent of the local population, acording to group representative Beth Bingham.

New affordable housing that has been developed with the towers matter, locals said, but it shouldn't come at the expense of green space.

"What good is affordable housing," said local Richard Mazur, "if you have to live like rats?"