Green$pace! Advocates fear Bushwick Inlet Park will go private

Green$pace! Advocates fear Bushwick Inlet Park will go private
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Williamsburg park lovers are worried that the city will let apartments rise up in the planned Bushwick Inlet Park because of the glacial pace it is taking to fund the greenspace.

Property values have skyrocketed in the area during the eight years since the city approved a controversial rezoning of the Williamsburg waterfront, and six riverside properties along Kent Avenue north of East River State Park that the city planned to purchase for $12 million and turn into parks are worth at least eight times that price. The city now says it does not have the money to pay for the land, and that has park advocates fearful that a Brooklyn Bridge Park-style public-private partnership, which could include housing on the site, is in the works.

“I’ll be shocked if we get this park without a big tower sitting in the middle of it,” said Community Board 1 member Ryan Kuonen. “That’s the only model the city seems to recognize as a viable way to build park space.”

The park advocates point to Brooklyn Bridge Park, a waterfront development below Brooklyn Heights that for years was promised to be a self-sustaining oasis funded by in-park activities, restaurants, and a hotel. But at the last minute, the government okayed condos, whose maintenance fees would go toward upkeep.

So far, the city only owns two of the six parcels it planned for Bushwick Inlet Park. The parks department plans to purchase the third plot, the Bayside Fuel site just north of the current park, in 2015. However, the city does not have the money to buy the three remaining plots — CitiStorage, Monitor, and Motiva, which are all along Kent Avenue just north of North Tenth Street.

“Thus far there is no schedule to begin these acquisitions,” said Parks spokeswoman Meghan Lalor.

But advocates say the city owes them the park, because it was part of the zoning deal that allowed condo buildings nearby.

“They rezoned and made commitments,” said Laura Treciokas, a member of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park and a board member of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning. “We allowed giant towers to go up on the waterfront and in exchange, we get some parkland.”

And that park should be provided by the city without the threat of privatization, which some advocates claim is a growing trend.

“They’ve done their best at trying to distance themselves from taking responsibility for parks,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates. “Putting condos in is one of the ridiculous things they’ve resorted to.”

The parks department declined to comment on the concerns, other than reiterate that the three plots remain unfunded.

But the city hasn’t completely ignored its commitment to build the park. A soccer field opened last year and a building housing its public rest rooms, community room, offices, and storage is planned to open in June.

The second parcel, on Kent at North Tenth Street, is still being tested for toxins and used only for summer concerts hosted by the Open Space Alliance.

In recent years, the city has had a series of misses in planned parks in North Brooklyn. The 65 Commercial Street park in Greenpoint has been hampered for years. In late 2012, after a struggle of many years, the city finally opened the long-awaited Transmitter Park.

Kuonen added that the city’s inability to get the park built “the second biggest failure of the Bloomberg administration,” after the lack of planning for Hurricane Sandy.

“This is huge. It was a big, huge promise,” said Kuonen. “It’s one of the most frustrating things and by far one of the most visible.”

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.