A plan to build a park at the edge of Newtown Creek is stalled because the Department of Transportation won’t make room for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, sources say.
The city will not transform a Greenpoint lot into a park because the Department of Transportation will not allow the MTA to relocate emergency vehicles from the Commercial Street plot to a city-owned site under the Williamsburg Bridge, mayoral officials told community leaders last week.
Negotiations between the agencies unravelled one year after the city and the MTA struck a tentative agreement to transfer a fleet of buses to a lot in Queens and move transit emergency vehicles under the bridge at Kent Avenue and S. Sixth Street — a switcheroo that would free up the Greenpoint space for public use.
But several sources claim the Department of Transportation won’t allow MTA trucks under the bridge because the vehicles contain pressurized gases.
A Bloomberg administration official said the Department of Transportation is reluctant to welcome the MTA vehicles due to a federal regulation that prohibits the storage of hazardous, flammable, and explosive materials under bridges without approval from a state agency, according to an e-mail obtained by The Brooklyn Paper.
But federal highway and state transportation spokesmen say the Williamsburg Bridge is out of their jurisdiction since it belongs to the city — meaning the regulation does not apply.
A Department of Transportation spokesman said that the agency has not granted the MTA permission to store any materials at the site, but is discussing the location of transit vehicles with the transit authority.
Calls made to the Mayor’s Office were not returned, and the MTA, for its part, says it’s ready to leave Greenpoint once it has a new place to park its vehicles.
“We stand ready to move out of 65 Commercial St. as soon as the city identifies an appropriate replacement site that is ready to be occupied,” said MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan.
The setback in the long-awaited park plan infuriated Councilman Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint), who blamed the Bloomberg administration for the latest open space debacle since the city’s 2005 promise to build a series of parks in North Brooklyn in exchange for allowing high-rise development along the waterfront.
“Our neighborhood was promised a park at 65 Commercial St. and seven years later, this administration continues to jerk us around,” said Levin.
Thousands of units of housing have sprouted along the Williamsburg waterfront over the past six years, but the bulk of the promised parkland — including much of the sprawling Bushwick Inlet Park — has not materialized.
State Sen. Dan Squadron suggested that the city find a way to cut through the red tape by giving the MTA a waiver to allow its vehicles to park under the Williamsburg Bridge, potentially allowing the Commercial Street park to move forward.
“I’ve long believed that bureaucratic hurdles and other challenges can be overcome with sufficient creativity and commitment,” he said. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
But Greenpoint community activist Laura Hofmann said the stalled plan is an insult to the neighborhoods — and residents should consider suing the city.
“The city’s reneging of its rezoning promises makes the mayor look like a royal jackass,” said Hofmann. “The community should be raising holy hell.”
Reach reporter Aaron Short at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2547.