Big-time guy Kurt Andersen wants to turn Carroll Park into a piazza

The Brooklyn Paper
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A nationally known radio host and novelist wants to pen the next chapter in the history of Carroll Park by having a hand in its transformation into an Italian-style piazza.

Second Place resident Kurt Andersen, the Peabody Award-winning host of the National Public Radio show “Studio 360” and the author of the acclaimed novel, “Turn of the Century,” wants the city to do a 180 on how it envisions the space, located between Smith, Court, Carroll and President streets.

He told this newspaper that his notion is to annex the “underused” western portion of the park near Court Street for the piazza, setting up tables, chairs and awnings — a cosmopolitan space where area cafés could serve drinks and food.

“When you see in Italy and Argentina plazas and piazzas really being used by all the people of a neighborhood, it’s a wonderful part of urban life,” Andersen said.

“It seems that rather than being a mostly empty spot in the heart of Carroll Gardens, this is the kind of amenity in the neighborhood that a lot of people would enjoy,” he added.

To realize his emergent vision, Andersen recently reached out to Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), who set up a Feb. 10 meeting with the advocacy group Friends of Carroll Park.

“I’m interested in hearing about it and discussing it,” said Glenn Kelly, founder of the group. “It’s a compelling idea.”

The next step will be to meet with the Parks Department to determine if the green scheme is even feasible.

But already, the city says it is willing to hear the plan out.

“Several agencies and planners would have to review it, but Parks is always happy to consider and review good ideas from the community,” said Borough Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey.

Andersen, the former architecture and design critic for Time magazine and a co-founder of Spy magazine, conceded that basketball players could be displaced by his plan, but ballers would have a readily available option nearby, as PS 58 at Smith and First Place has outdoor courts.

Some longtime residents were skeptical.

“It’s somewhat contrived,” said Michael Pesce, an appellate court judge and former assemblyman, who was among the residents who lobbied to have part of Court Street co-named to honor an Italian town that sent dozens of residents to Brooklyn.

But those days are long gone, Pesce said.

“Still, it’s a good idea so long as people understand that the character and make-up of the community is not what it used to be,” he said. “Is this for tourists? Or is this to have people come back to their old neighborho­od?”

Both, says Andersen, a Nebraska-native who has spent the last 21 years in Carroll Gardens.

“Certainly, this connects to the ethnic heritage of the neighborhood of the last century,” he said. “But to me, this is for everyone in the neighborho­od,” he said.

The park started out as a community garden, and was acquired by the City of Brooklyn in 1852, making it our third oldest green space. It is named after Charles Carroll, a Maryland planter who was the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. The park was last redesigned in 1993.

Paying for the new plan could be tricky, but some residents already have ideas.

“It needs a fountain for people to throw coins in,” suggested Maria Pagano, the president of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association.

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Reader Feedback

CGMom from Carroll Gardens says:
That is a terrible idea. We need more park space for kids andadults to have physical exercise. Everyone in the neighborhood - children and adults - uses tht space for sports - basketball, hockey, softball, soccer - as well as space for kids to ride their bikes and scooters safely and just run around. We don't need a piazza.
Feb. 3, 2011, 10:15 am
Feral from Carroll Gardens says:
Sounds like a great idea! Would be nice to have all that chain-link taken down...
Feb. 3, 2011, 11:17 am
MRB from Ft Greene says:
I used to live right around here. Although a plaza or piazza would be exciting, there's simply nowhere else in the neighborhood to toss a football around, play basketball etc.

Could we rebuild the east side facing Smith street for this, and save the play space?
Feb. 3, 2011, 11:26 am
Bklnyer from Carroll Gardens says:
Is he talking about getting rid of the baseball and basketball courts?
Feb. 3, 2011, 12:27 pm
Joe Nardiello from Carroll Gardens says:
There's something disappointing about this -- in trying to make our park adjust to someone's personal idea of what it should be vs. appreciating what we have.

Carroll Park is already the epitome of what is suggested by Anderson -- and a Euro-styled "piazza" isn't his idea, but one conceived and delivered well over 100 years ago. It centers the area for 10,000s of people and already is served by many cafes, bakeries and coffee shops/restaurants within a 1-2 block walk.

Carroll Park is already an epicenter. Its large ball-field is used for open concerts/events, by local children and young adults, by organized athletic groups that bring families/participation from miles around, we've seen outdoor karate and yoga instruction, kite flying as well as basketball, roller hockey and impromptu sports of all sorts... if its the fabric of this community that has drawn Anderson, they why would you want to diminish it?

While its not a tourist trap, visitors do enjoy being immersed into the vitality and authentic life of a Brooklyn park, happening all around you -- and I'm sure Anderson has seen that. It as to be far more fulfilling to any visitor, to experience a true community (vs. contrived cafe food/bland atmosphere say, now at Bryant Park or Union Square) that sets itself with the flow of its people.

Right now, it has 4 very different, but seamlessly connected segments of space. An elevated sitting area along Smith St, a fantastic childrens-play area and cherished activity center, a tree-lined plaza and walkway centered by a unique obelisk honoring men lost to war -- and a magnificent wide open area that blends with the seasons, for ball-games and cycling, of skateboards and limitless recreational use, from right up to making snowmen (in the face of record snow).

The park closes at dusk, for a reason and the 76th Pct. helps limit the broken glass, destruction and does a good job, now of deflecting from Carroll Park what are facts that go on across each night (including drugs sales, turf battles). Reality is additionally, that cafes in parks feed rats long after the visitors are gone, at that.

It's been re-done twice within recent memory (at the cost of millions of tax-dollars). Community use was examined by both Councilmembers DiBrienza and DeBlasio, two longtime residents of Brooklyn. This is NOT the case of leaving well-enough alone -- its the case of someone frankly telling Mr. Anderson that if Union Sq. Park is what he pines for, then by all means take the F-train there.
Feb. 3, 2011, 12:37 pm
Myrtle Willoughby from Fort Greene says:
I agree with CG Mom and MRB. I've been to Carroll Park in the summer, and groups of kids often have to wait till others are done at the basketball courts. This sounds like it's for yuppies, not the elderly who like benches. There are a lot of lower-income kids, teens and active adults of all income groups who prefer the park be used for sports and physical activities. The private sector has plenty of spots for people to sit and sip drinks. Go to a cafe or bar on Smith Street!
Feb. 3, 2011, 12:38 pm
njs from Carroll Gardens says:
Parks are for kids to play, not pretentious adults who want espresso and panini (as if there is not enough decent options within 1 block in any direction.) This is a terrible, terrible idea that hopefully will not gain any traction with the local politicians. Maybe they can improve that area, but eliminating the ability to play from a park should not even be considered for a second.
Feb. 3, 2011, 12:47 pm
jonb from south brooklyn says:
these days, everyone think they're friggin landscape architect.
Feb. 3, 2011, 1:18 pm
mary from columbia st says:
the current trend in park planning is community consensus, not Medici-inspired design edicts. Kurt Andersen should have attended last night's park visioning session for the planned columbia street park to learn how neighbors work collaboratively to design open space.
Feb. 3, 2011, 1:27 pm
lc from carroll gardens says:
This is the only space in the hood to throw the ball around, have snowball fights or just run around. Its also home to many summer activities and is used by young and old alike. Ridiculous idea, I'm sure Mr Andersen is lucky enough to have a home with outdoor space, perhaps he can have pizza in his garden and play Venesuela.
Feb. 3, 2011, 1:59 pm
lc from carroll gardens says:
oops Argentina - there goes the joke.
Feb. 3, 2011, 2 pm
Bet says:
Butt out! Leave the nabe alone.
Feb. 3, 2011, 3:38 pm
Luigi says:
It's Italian enough the way it is....why mess with perfection?
Feb. 3, 2011, 3:40 pm
Dominic from Carroll Gardens says:
I agree, Smith & luquer st would be the place for this. It's such an eyesore around there.
Feb. 3, 2011, 4:13 pm
fred from CG says:
The idea sounds good as it combines the park and the school playground which is empty most of the time late afternoon and weekends while the "sport" area of the park is overcrowded. I am also sad when I see the bocce players in a cage. hope that the CGNA and the Friends or Carroll Park will be proactive. It does not cost anything neither it hurt to make a proposal.
Feb. 3, 2011, 6:01 pm
Joe Z. from Greenpoint says:
Mr. Andersen has the self-important- snobbish-look down his nose at the unwashed masses-liberal-I know what's best for you-pseudo-he man of the universe look down pat, from the Gordon Geckoesque greasy hairdo to those wire rimmed glasses.

If you don't like the park for what it is, move your inteloping posterior back to Omaha and try selling your idea of civilization to the rubes over there. I can't wait for the day Congress deletes funding for NPR from the budget. I'm sure "Big-time Guy" can convince his friends to pony up the bucks to run it on their own.

"these days, everyone think they're friggin landscape architect."

Then, there are those who think that they are nationally known radio hosts and novelists. That's as delusional as trying to recreate a neighborhood in your own selfish self-aggrandizing image. Kurt and Anne both need to concentrate on finding real, meaningful employment. Idle minds are wont to think of silly things like this.
Feb. 3, 2011, 8:59 pm
Joseph from Carroll Gardens says:
If you walk through the park in the spring thru fall seasons it's packed wall to wall with kids playing. Why would you reduce the space? There are plenty of benches in the middle of the area for people to sit, have some coffee, and a little lunch.

The bocce courts are intentionally caged because only a few old men have a key to get in and thats the way they like it.

Just leave it alone.
Feb. 4, 2011, 1:40 pm
Drew from BK says:
How many more articles are we going to have to read about this author?
Feb. 6, 2011, 7:23 am
Joe Z. from Greenpoint says:
There's an upcomiming piece about Kurt's europhile dream to dig up all the streets in Carroll Gardens and turn them into canals a la Venice.
Feb. 6, 2011, 1:57 pm
TamKat from Carroll Gardens says:
The idea is a nice one, but not taking up all that open space to accommodate it. That part of the park might not be used all the time - but it IS used - by kids playing basket ball, by baseball teams and by people who want an open space to play catch, kick around a ball, skateboard, etc. Maybe a corner of the space or an area around the monument in the middle.
Feb. 6, 2011, 5:19 pm
Friends of Carroll Park from Carroll Gardens says:
We at the Friends of Carroll Park, a volunteer organization working for over 20 years to enhance our community's park experience, welcome any and all ideas for park improvement and recreation. This is an idea which has not yet been formally presented to the community, so it may yet result in any number of outcomes, from a weekly or monthly activity to a more integrated component of a future capital renovation. We just don't know yet. Let's wait until we have the facts so that any criticisms or suggestions can be specific and constructive.
Feb. 7, 2011, 11:26 am
Jack from FY says:
Yes exactly, we need to be constructive, not like frozen old farts :))))))))))))))))))

This is a great idea, as long as a large portion of the revenue generated goes to the operations of the Park!!!

We need the money in this times! The NYC parks dept will have its budget cut deeper.
Feb. 8, 2011, 11:02 am
E from CG says:
Transferring basketball and baseball to PS 58 is not an option. That play yard is not open during the day and on the weekends. And it was just re-done at quite an expense to the school.

I'm really not sure why he things the big ballfield is under utilized... it's always so crowded! And there's little league games, etc...
Feb. 9, 2011, 11:14 am
mr from carroll gardens says:
wasn't there a huge rat problem not so long ago in the park? as it is, most don't clean up after themselves and think the litter will somehow find its way to one of the numerous trash containers ( I guess) on its own. Serving food in the park will just create a fabulous source of food for the rodents we worked so hard to get rid of. There is already enough food thrown on the ground there to feed the pigeons which in turn feeds all the other wildlife in Caroll Park. the park is not large enough to have space used like this. we are in a neighborhood that is notorious for the huge numbers of children that live here. dont take away their play space to make room for rats to move in.
Feb. 9, 2011, 2:07 pm
MC from Carroll Gardens says:
I would venture to guess that the proponent of the "piazza" idea has no young children. I am shocked that Councilman Lander would support such a proposal. The large play yard and courts in Carroll Park are filled with children, teenagers, and adults playing basketball, softball, touch football, soccer, learning to ride bikes; young children are using their scooters. PS58 children regularly use the play yard and courts after school, and when the school yard is not available, the children have used Carroll Park yard for lunch recess. This wonderful wide open space is used for flea markets in the spring, and outdoor movies in the summer. I hope that the Friends of Carroll Park strenuously oppose the wrong-headed idea of Mr. Andersen.
Feb. 9, 2011, 2:21 pm
sydkal from Boerum Hill says:
Please stop taking up more space from the kids. Anyone who visits Carroll Park already know it's way over crowded. There are few other options where kids can play, exercise and hang out.
Feb. 9, 2011, 2:22 pm
gladIleft from westbury says:
Another example of how the yuppies are destroying Carroll Gardens. GO BACK TO THE MIDWEST
Feb. 9, 2011, 2:24 pm
B.B. from bklyn says:
We're going to have a piazza, we're going to have a piazza! Yeah, RIGHT! Stupid idea.
Feb. 9, 2011, 2:33 pm
PS58mom from Carroll Gardens says:
The reporter on this story should have done a bit more reporting. It's simply not true that the basketball court area is underused. Sure, if you've walked by the park the last 6 weeks you haven't seen many kids, due to the ice and snow, but I challenge you to find any neighborhood parent who doesn't know that elementary school kids play pick-up games of soccer, basketball, and baseball there every day in the spring, summer and fall. It's also common to see kids on scooters and bikes there. Mr. Andersen may not realize this, but I'm surprised a reporter wouldn't do a bit of digging as part of the story. I suspect if Mr. Andersen knew how frequently the space was used, he'd reconsider his idea.
Feb. 9, 2011, 2:36 pm
2PLgal from Carroll Gardens says:
Had the article not said Mr. Andersen is a 21-year Carroll Gardens resident, I would swear the idea was hatched by someone who never visited the neighborhood. I'm stunned that anyone would characterize the basketball courts as being "underused". Teeming with children and adults would be more accurate, unless the weather is particularly bad (in which case a piazza would be empty too). As for playing at PS 58, the idea is absurd and ill-informed, as the school yard is not open to the public and is kept locked when school is not in session.

If one actually spends time in the park, it is apparent that the least used areas are those areas removed from play areas where seating already exists - the benches on the Smith Street side and the tables in the EXISTING center piazza/memorial section of the park. Why not improve those instead?

And with so many cafes, bakeries, restaurants and even greenmarkets abutting the park, is it really necessary to take away park space for a commercial venture?
Feb. 9, 2011, 2:47 pm
Tom from Little Norway says:
To gladIleft from westbury says:
Another example of how the yuppies are destroying Carroll Gardens. GO BACK TO THE MIDWEST

Well, I am from Norway, you know the people that were there before the Italians in this area (and after the Native).

So what's your point? Italians should have not "destroy" our Little Norway?

To be frank with you: you are an old frozen fart, please stay behind your window, behind the curtain too, so we don't see you when we walk from/to our non-union job.
Feb. 9, 2011, 3:26 pm
Kristina from Carroll Gardens says:
This is truly a sad proposal. Carroll Gardens in home to many families and this part of the park is where they gather, chat, do tai chi, skateboard, learn to ride a bike, learn to throw a baseball, sink their first hoop, play tag, learn to walk, etc. Per an earlier post - there are plenty of places that cater to what Mr. Andersen wants to do already in the neighborhood. Kids, families and adults have little lace just to be purely active in this city - please don't take this away. Perhaps the efforts for a piazza would be better spent on an empty lot rather than one well occupied by local residents.
Feb. 9, 2011, 3:50 pm
Joe from Gowanus says:
Great idea but wrong park - St. Mary's playground - under the subway tracks at Nelson-Huntington should be the focus of discussion! Why destroy a functioning park when other CG / Gowanus parks and play areas are in desperate need of attention?
Feb. 9, 2011, 5:52 pm
Anga from Carroll Gardens says:
The "old timers" of Carroll Gardens should have a march on political leaders if they even try to convert our park to a piazza. If Mr. Anderson truly wants a piazza experience, he should board a plane to Argentina or Italy. I am sure the people who grew up in this neighborhood and love what we have as it was when we grew up and as it is today, will be happy to chip in and buy him a one way ticket. There are many, many children still enjoying these courts. Do we banish them from childhood experiences. What is wrong with this paper and various agencies who condone humoring these individuals trying to change our appearance and lives. None of their recommendations are meaningful, only self serving. They all are experts in converting what attracted them to our neighborhood in the first place.
A piazza in place of the ball court in Carroll Park is totally out of place in our neighborhood. I think Park Slope should give him the piazza in Prospect Park!! Ok Brad Lander, the ball is in your court now!
Feb. 9, 2011, 6:25 pm
Henry from Caroll Gardens says:
The park is not underused. Go by any afternoon, when there is no snow, particularly in the summer, and you'll see a bevy of activity.

The Brooklyn Youth Association (BYA) uses the yard for baseball during the summer and a number of little league teams use it for practice. There are also a number of performances during the year.

The school yard at PS 58 is not really available during the school year as it is used for after school activities.

Perhaps, a piazza could be installed on, say Saturday's, on a block nearby. Maybe 2nd place?
Feb. 9, 2011, 9:45 pm
Henry from Caroll Gardens says:
Here is the BYA web site. Their field is Carroll Park.
Feb. 9, 2011, 9:59 pm
Joe Nardiello from Carroll Gardens says:
There's another story-line, here at that...

What is the quid pro quo -- of our Councilperson facilitating the whims of this architect? (Is favor with upcoming NPR shows it?) Why is one architect 'more equal' than the scores of architects already, in Carroll Gardens?

This idea is an outrage, and the plans should have been made public already -- provided within this story, at that. For one, I don't believe that a "restaurant concession" is synonymous with a "piazza". The cafes usually line the piazzas in Europe, etc. -- here, he's removing the place where the people recreate. What does Mr. Anderson believe he's going to see, as he sits under his sun-umbrella, sipping an expresso.. when the neighborhood's vibrancy & diversity (shown in that playground) is eliminated?
Feb. 10, 2011, 4:26 pm
Anga from Carroll Gardens says:
Joe Nardiello is absolutely right.
No one should be allowed to discuss any changes to Carroll Park without taking it to the people who live in the community first. This is a community decision not Friends of Carroll Gardens, nor the Parks Department nor Councilman Brad Lander.

I grew up in this neighborhood and can truly say I have never seen Carroll Park more crowded than it is now. Where do you all expect these children to play. Our esteemed community leaders want to keep building large apartment house complexes but make no accommodations for the children who will live in these buildings along with the group we already have. Your solution is to take away whatever open space remains from children.

A park in Park Slope should be used or allow Anderson to have his Piazza on Public Place or you can create a piazza where the city parking lot was across from Public Place on Smith Street between 4th Place and Luquer St. BUT BUT BUT Who really wants a piazza. Look at the sloppy mess outside of Macys in Manhattan where tables and chairs are set up. Totally ridiculous. Look at the mess in Times Square. We have too many restaurants around here as it is. If Anderson lives on 2nd place let him put his piazza in front of his house. He'll never have to leave home without it............

While I am sure Mr.Anderson probably meant well, it is obvious our political leaders should concentrate on more important issues such as more school space and playground space first. The judgement being shown in this neighborhood lately leaves a lot to be desired.
Feb. 10, 2011, 8:08 pm
Joe Z. from Greenpoint says:
Anga's reference to herald Square is apropos. There is no need to install an asspark, with the accompanying commercial venues, in a public park/playground. You want a refreshment, take a walk outside the park and help yourelf. but, before you do, remember this:

no saves on seats.
Feb. 11, 2011, 5:06 pm
Chris from Carroll Gardens says:
What a terrible idea!!!

The park is underused? Mr. Anderson, your own words prove how out of touch with this community your are...

You are either clueless of our environment in the neighborhood or you know and don't really care about the community needs.

First I would guess that Mr. Anderson is not a parent, which is the majority of adults in the neighborhood; I would also guess that he is not in this neighborhood for too long and is not in touch with its history and community members.

Last, I would like to know why I was not asked for my opinion about it, why this is just surfacing after meetings had happened?

Ask the rest of us and we will let you know what we want!

Thank you Joe Nardiello, your reply was very sensitive.

Mr. Anderson, I find your idea very disregarding of others. Leave our minimal open and well used space alone and support the local existent cafes!

We are not going to fulfill your personal desire.
Like Joe Nardiello said, you can take the F train and find insipid fake Piazzas you are trying to push on us at Union Square and Bryant Park.
I would like to suggest that you go for the real ones in Italy.
Buona Ventura!
Feb. 14, 2011, 9:11 am
Caterina from Carroll Gardens says:
I think that this proposal has no chance of happening. I would love to see a better use for the existing space and we are perhaps due for some resurfacing and more creative play spaces, but using the ball courts is simply a bad idea.
As for the idea of working on St. Mary's Playground, under the El on Smith Street between Huntington and Luquer Sts., that is a wonderful one and perhaps planning on that, rather than Carroll Park, should begin now. For the next two years, the MTA renovation on the Culver line will necessitate that these parks be closed. A great use of this time would be to reimagine how this park can work for the children in this community, considering it recieves little light and there is no greenery. Any planning for creatively making the space welcoming and bright should happen now. Surely, we can do better. This is the park I grew up using and it always fell short of its potential. With so many new families with young children in the Doler building (505 Court) and in the surrounding buildings (I know there are many small children as my 4 year old twins have at least 6 classmates in a two block radius)- there should be wide community support to reevaluate the use of these parks.
Feb. 14, 2011, 10:56 am
Smelling a fish from Carroll Gardens says:
Today I received this forwarded email,

"Hi ___________:Thanks for being in touch with CM Lander about this issue. It definitely seems like there has been some confusion around this issue, and so I wanted to point you to the statement from Friends of Carroll Park that was on the Pardon Me for Asking blog. Let me know if you have any questions."

CONFUSION? So that would suggest that the article in the story in your paper is a LIE? And the QUOTED statements were never said? It also should be noted that the PMFA blog is written by the WIFE of the guy in Friends of Carroll Park.

So lets review: Brooklyn Paper breaks story. Friends of Carroll Park catch some heat. Lander's office says there is "confusion" and then points to PMFA blog, written by wife of FOCP guy.

Um, does anyone smell a fish here?
Feb. 15, 2011, 9:05 am
bkny from carroll gardens says:
i live across the street from carroll park -- in fact, the very 'underused' area that andersen so casually wants to turn into a cafe.

what a terrible idea. kids use that basketball/baseball court daily; even the bocce ball court sees the occasional game (although not nearly as frequent as when i first moved here).

leave the park alone. if you want refreshments and a place to hang, there's a street full of cafes/restaurants on smith street.
Feb. 27, 2011, 9:32 am
Anne from Carroll Gardens says:
What an out of touch adult idea! I have lived within view of this park for 13 years - listening to the sound of happy children's voices every day, finding much needed play in an urban area. Please don't for a moment consider taking away open space for physical exercise and play. Go to a restaurant and support already established local businesses.
What a nightmare of a suggestion!
April 3, 2011, 1:35 pm

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