The Parks Department can’t find more than $300,000 that had been pledged towards the restoration of historic Fort Greene Park.
Officials publicly acknowledged the apparent hole in the agency’s pocket this week, following an announcement that two elected officials had allocated $1 million to repair a stairway in the park.
The missing $350,000 was allocated by Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Joe Chan in 2003, when he was an assistant to Deputy Mayor Doctoroff. The money was intended to fund a so-called “master plan” for Fort Greene Park, but Parks officials claimed that they couldn’t release the funds unless they were attached to a capital project.
On Oct. 1, that capital project arrived, when Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) and Borough President Markowitz announced that they would each allocate $500,000 to repair a worn-down staircase and plaza at Washington Park and Myrtle Avenue.
But the master plan money, which the city promised to James, has not been released. That is because the city can’t find it.
“We went through all our budget lines for Fort Greene Park, and there doesn’t appear to be $350,000 for a master plan,” said Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson.
“It doesn’t appear to be in the budget,” he added. “It’s unclear if [the allocation] actually happened.”
But Fort Greene Park Conservancy head Charles Jarden, who was present at the fateful 2003 meeting during which Chan promised James the money, said he was befuddled.
“I saw Joe Chan recently, and he remembers the money being moved into the Parks Department budget,” said Jarden. “And the Parks people I’ve met with know that it was moved somewhere into their budget, but they kind of shrug their shoulders about it.
“I don’t know really how to react to it,” added Jarden.
James knew how to react.
“[They] need to honor their commitment that we had agreed upon,” said James. “I’m urging them to locate that money or use what they call ‘general requirements money’ for both the entrance and the master plan. I also need funds for the tennis courts.”
Fort Greene Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same men who gave us Central and Prospect parks, has fallen into disrepair over the years, despite the best efforts of its park manager and the Conservancy.