The city insists that it is committed to completing a Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront park that it promised a decade ago — it just won’t say how, when, or with what money.
Following months of silence to reporters, locals pols, and park advocates, a spokeswoman for the Mayor DeBlasio finally said last week that the city still intends to expand Bushwick Inlet Park to the full 28 acres that the Bloomberg administration committed to in 2005, but refused to say if and when it will acquire a key plot of land that sits smack-dab in the center of the planned park and is needed to complete the space.
“NYC Parks continues to take substantive steps toward the development of Bushwick Inlet Park’s additional parcels, which together with the completed area will bring 28 new acres of public green space to the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront,” said spokeswoman Monica Klein.
When pushed to clarify, Klein reiterated her message.
“We continue to pursue completing the whole park,” she replied and refused to respond further.
But local residents and politicians, who have been trying to get city officials to meet with them to discuss the park for months, say a commitment without details is worthless.
“They are ducking the question,” said state assemblyman Joe Lentol (D-Greenpoint). “If they want to build the park, they need to spend the money. It is that simple.”
The city first committed to building a 28-acre park in 2005 when it rezoned much of the area’s waterfront to allow developers to erect luxury apartment and condo buildings. The planned park is supposed to run for five-and-a-half continuous blocks starting at the northern edge of East River State Park. Ten years on, the city has only procured 17 acres of that land, about seven acres of which it has turned into actual parkland so far.
But the city currently has no schedule or funding in place to purchase the remaining 11 acres of land on Kent Avenue between N. 10th and N. 12th streets, which houses several CitiStorage warehouses and divides the current parkland from the other spaces the city has acquired.
Park advocates say the city cannot afford to wait any longer. In 2005, the lot was valued at about $19 million. By 2011, owner Norman Brodsky was claiming he believed he could get $120 million for it, and the city conceded at the time that it didn’t have the cash to buy the land. Brodsky now claims he could sell the space for upwards of $500 million. Any such sale would be complicated by the fact that the land is currently zoned for commercial use — which means a property developer couldn’t just buy the site and slap a condo building on top of it without convincing the city to rezone the land — though a group of developers has now secured an option to purchase the site, according to an April report.
Last month, DeBlasio released a new environmental agenda that trumpeted the land the city has already acquired for the park, but made no mention of the CitiStorage lot.
The city’s failure to produce a plan for finishing the park proves its latest statement is just hot air, say parks activists, who have rallied by the hundreds in recent months to demand the administration get its act together.
“They are trying to say the right things, but they clearly have no plan,” said Jens Rassmussen, a member of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. “That is why they are not meeting with anyone. They do not have any plan or structure to put their money where their mouth is.”