The city can finally build a long-awaited Greenpoint park now that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has made plans to vacate a lot on the banks of the Newtown Creek that is slated for green space.
The City Council voted on Monday to allow the transit agency to move the old and broken vehicles it is housing on a lot at the end of Box Street to a facility in the Bronx, which will leave the waterfront space free for parkland. Pols promised to build the so-called Box Street Park there a decade ago, and locals say they are excited that the project is finally moving along.
“The fact that the deal actually signed is really fantastic,” said Greenpoint resident Katie Naplatarski. “This is something the community has been waiting for for years.”
The city first pledged to build the park in 2005, when it rezoned industrial sites on the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront to allow residential development. Officials said they would relocate the 2.81-acre transit authority lot at 65 Commercial St. — which is a little larger than the size of two football fields — and replace it with parkland to make up for the many luxury condominium and apartment towers that were sure to come.
But the project stalled when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority couldn’t find anywhere to move its vehicles, and the city then claimed the funds for the park had dried up. The City Council finally cut a deal with developer Chetrit Group in late 2013, allowing it to build new luxury towers on neighboring land in exchange for bankrolling the park’s construction and the transit facility’s emigration, amongst other concessions.
Councilman Steve Levin said he had serious doubts that the park would ever materialize after the years of inaction, but he is now feeling reassured.
“The community was promised this park as part of the neighborhood’s rezoning,” said Levin (D–Williamsburg), “I’m glad to be able to move this process forward.”
But some residents say it is now difficult to get pumped about the park after so many years of broken promises.
“It is too many years in the works and the fact that it has taken so long to follow through on that commitment is very disturbing,” said open-space advocate Adam Perlmutter. “My happiness that the park is finally coming is overshadowed by that.”
Residents say they hope the city will allow them more input into Box Street Park than they were given on nearby Transmitter Park and in-the-works Newtown Barge Park, which they say were built without taking local needs into account. The neighborhood needs a dog park, basketball court, and real grass turf, say locals.
“The process must be entirely different from last time,” said Naplatarski.
It will still be a while before the land is free of vehicles and the city can start building. Levin’s office said the transit authority plans to move its cars to the Bronx lot by 2017, after which the city will need to clean the industrial site to make it safe for park-goers.