The cash-strapped state parks department has reopened Williamsburg’s only waterfront park a month ahead of schedule — and just in time for winter.
On the day before Monday’s blizzard, workers unlocked East River State Park, which the State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation had shuttered in January to save $40,000.
But other agency cost-cutting and the falling cost of energy — coupled with pledges from community groups to help maintain the space at Kent Avenue and North Eighth Street — allowed the state to reopen the park, according to spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee.
Few people took advantage of the snowy stretch of land on Monday, but neighborhood activists celebrated the early reopening as a coup.
“It’s an absolute victory to have it open — the state was not going to open it until April, but then it acquiesced,” said Cathleen Breen, whose group, the Friends of East River State Park, spearheaded the fight to unlock the park.
Breen was in the park on Monday, despite the snow.
Her group, along with Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D– Greenpoint), had drafted a reopening plan that called for the NYPD to open and close the gate each day and for the community organization to clean the space and pay for necessary insurance.
But just 30 days before the state’s planned April 1 reopening, the state decided to unlock the park itself — after Breen’s group cleaned up the space over the weekend.
“This is an opportunity for us to develop a cooperative relationship with the community,” said Larrabee of the park, which will no be open daily from 9 am until dusk — staffed by state parks employees.
“It’s good to know that there are residents in the community who value the park and can help out when there may be a need.”
— with Dustin Seplow
©2009 Community News Group
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