City: No waterfront access for Brigham St. park

Steve Barrison of the Bay Improvement Group wants the city to transform an abandoned lot on Brigham Street at Emmons Avenue into a public park.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

The city wants to turn a vacant Sheepshead Bay lot near the Belt Parkway on-ramp into a park with sweeping waterfront views — but doesn’t want park-goers to enjoy the water.

Residents said the weed-strewn lot at the foot of Brigham Street that the Parks Department has tapped for a $4-million makeover would be a perfect place for a public boat ramp where seafarers could launch their canoes, kayaks and other small skiffs, but the city is denying those requests, claiming that waterfront access is not part of the plan.

Critics say the park would be teeming with budding boaters and water recreation activities if the city opened its mind — and opened the waterfront to the public.

“A boat ramp makes sense. Why not open [the bay] up to more residents?” asked Steve Barrison, president of the Bay Improvement Group. “It would give the average person, not just high-end people, access to the waterfront.”

The property — which is slightly larger than a football field — is jointly owned by the Parks Department and Department of Environmental Protection, which controls the section that abuts the water.

City environmental officials said residents will be barred from the strip of land at the water’s edge, which once held a now-defunct sludge pump that handled sewage overflow from the nearby waste treatment plant on Knapp Street.

But boating enthusiasts said the city could install a boat ramp in a small inlet adjacent of the park that feeds into the bay.

“That would be an ideal spot,” said Tony Pignatello, who heads the Sebago Canoe Club, which rents parkland on the Paerdegat Basin inlet in Canarsie for its water recreational activities. “[Sheepshead Bay] needs a public boat launch site.”

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Michael Saucier said the agency is considering the proposal, but Brooklyn Parks Chief of Staff Marty Maher told members of the Sheepshead Bay-Plumb Beach Civic Association last week that the site won’t include a boat ramp, though he said an unused city-owned pier across from the park will be open to the public.

A Parks Department spokeswoman confirmed Maher’s statement that there would be no waterfront access, but wouldn’t provide any further details on the city’s decision.

Boaters who belong to the several yacht clubs that line Emmons Avenue — where members pay up to $2,300 a year to have exclusive access to the waterfront, said a public boat ramp would be dangerous if novice boaters aren’t supervised.

“That type of launch area might be unsafe,” said Irene Olson, the membership chair of the Miramar Yacht Club.

Last month, the Parks Department resurrected a 20-year-old plan to transform the lot into a park that residents had wanted there since the early 1990s.

The funds earmarked for the park will cover a bare-bones open space — not the 21st century oasis with high-tech equipment that planners had once envisioned for the lot.

The park also won’t have a bathroom, though Parks officials said one could be built in the future at a cost of $1.6 million.

Maher said the park is scheduled to open in 2016.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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