The city has allocated a bundle of money toward the fabled completion of Bushwick Inlet Park, promising $75 million for the development of the CitiStorage site on Kent Avenue.
“A promise was made to this community a long time ago for this park, and the city of New York did not keep the promise,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. “It was before my time, but people gathered, and people organized, and I want to thank you for that, because you were right. That a promise was made and it needed to be kept.”
The waterfront park, promised by then-mayor Michael Bloomberg as part of the 2005 rezoning of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, has been languishing for years, with just a fraction of the promised 27-acre open space completed and open to the public.
Purchasing and developing the land from private developers has been a chief factor in the long-delayed construction of the park. The de Blasio administration finally bought the last plot of land needed for the park, the burned-out home CitiStorage site and the old Bayside Oil Depot on Kent Avenue and N. 11th Street, in 2016, for a whopping $160 million, after years of negotiations with the parcel’s former owner.
Delays continued once the land was purchased, to the dismay of locals. In May, the area’s elected officials, including Councilmember Stephen Levin, Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, and Mayor-elect and Borough President-elect Eric Adams and Antonio Reynoso, wrote a letter to de Blasio asking for at least $16 million to be allocated to the completion of the demolition of the site, and for city government to collaborate on a plan to fund the “remediation, design, and construction of” the CitiStorage and Bayside Oil sites.
“I thought, when we last gathered and celebrated the city’s investment, we were sort of like, ‘We did it, we’re done, this is great, this is wonderful,’” de Blasio said. “And then, in this year’s budget, I heard there was more to be done.”
The continued activism of groups like Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park was not forgotten at City Hall, he said.
“Just think, when this building has been torn down, in just one long, unobstructed view, we will be able to see the whole park, from the south end to the north end, and it’s going to be incredible,” said Katherine Conkling Thompson, co-chair of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. “It’s going to be incredible, and a real vision.”
The city had already allocated $17 million for the construction of the park, and the City Council added $1 million in discretionary funding – bringing the total to more $90 million to demolish the CitiStorage building and the development and construction of the next stages of the park.
“The funds are locked in, but, you know, we will have to continue to advocate for those funds to be released,” Thompson told Brooklyn Paper. “They’re held and they’re earmarked for these purposes, but there’s a lot that goes into having those funds be released.”
For example, she said, the city will have to come up with a remediation plan for the site and have the plan approved, then decide who will be responsible for carrying that plan out. But she’s hopeful that under the guidance of soon-to-be-mayor Adams, things will go to plan.
“He was really an active part of the fight to secure the CitiStorage site,” Thompson said. “We’re hoping that Adams will have the passion and the incentive and the memory of the site to finish it.”
Community Board 1, in their recommendations for the development of River Ring — a large mixed-use development with a waterfront park in Williamsburg — asked that the city fully fund the completion of Bushwick Inlet Park if they approved the project, to “help mitigate the existing severe local open space deficiencies” in the neighborhood. Friends of BIP co-chair Stephen Chesler sits on the CB1 Land Use Committee.
Adams agreed in his recommendations, asking that the city adequately fund the completion of the park and any revenue garnered by the sale of city land be used to fund completion of the park.
The caveats did not make it into the final agreement, though Two Trees does plan to fund a study of existing and future parks in the neighborhood, assessing how best to connect and capitalize on the green space.
“I want to thank Mayor de Blasio and Parks Commissioner Fialkoff for this historic investment, and look forward to overseeing the completion of this new phase,” Adams said, in a release.
Friends of BIP were not specifically in support of the call to fund the park in the River Ring agreement, Thompson said, but she is frustrated that the dozens of private developers building all around the park have not contributed to the project, which is now old enough to get a learner’s permit.
But Levin, in his last days in office, said the agreement is an example of city government at work, finally coming through on what’s promised without needing to rely on a private company.
“It’s an investment in the idea of public works,” Levin said. “This is not a public-private partnership, this is a public park built by the city, run by the city. In my book, this is a major, major accomplishment. It has solidified and shored up the foundation of what this city is all about.”