The city ignored much of what Greenpointers wanted to see in a planned park on a bank of Newtown Creek, residents said after parks department reps unveiled a new design last week.
The plan for Newtown Barge Park includes a kids’ baseball field, a grove of trees, and bench-lined pathways leading to a creek overlook. Neighbors were dismayed that the proposal doesn’t include a dog run, a basketball court, or adult sports fields, and that it is also missing several aesthetic elements called for in a decade-old waterfront plan.
In a startling reversal of the common complaint that there is not enough for the youth to do, one neighborhood activist told park planners at the Jan. 8 presentation that the design is too kid-friendly.
“You are reshaping the whole thing and everything is for kids,” Michael Hoffman said. “Where are the adults supposed to go?”
The existing park is an acre of concrete used for handball and other sports. The city’s plan calls for 2.2 acres of greenery, artificial turf, and plastic fences and benches, materials that another local griped wouldn’t be environmentally friendly.
“We should call this ‘Hydrocarbon Park’ or ‘Off-Gassing Park,’ because everything in the park will be plastic,” Darren Lipman said. “Can we not do better than this?”
Much of the design that the parks department presented goes against guidelines listed in the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Waterfront Access Plan that locals spent months weighing in on in 2004 and 2005. That plan calls for wooden benches and paving stones throughout the public portions of the two neighborhoods’ waterfront, but the new design includes the plastic benches and asphalt pathways instead. Some Greenpointers want the parks department to abide by the earlier prescription.
“These elements are supposed to have consistency from the top to the bottom of the waterfront, and that is not what we are getting,” said Greenpoint resident Katie Naplatarski. “They should be honoring that agreement, and if they need to change something, they need to come back to the community.”
A parks department spokeswoman said that the agreement is not binding for public land, but that the agency tries to stick to it as much as it can.
“Although zoning requirements generally do not apply to parkland, the parks department seeks to design parks to be substantially consistent with neighboring open spaces to the extent feasible,” Maeri Ferguson said.
Park designers said they had a lot more than community concerns to factor in when mapping out the greensward.
“We wanted to keep the park as open as possible,” said engineer Gary Sorge of the firm Stantec, which designed the park for the city. “It was a challenge creating protections against storm surges while allowing access.”
But many of the decisions came down to matters of money, according to a parks department rep.
“A lot of it was a question of budget,” said Martin Maher.
Over the course of the meeting, Maher and parks administrator Ed Janoff repeated that many elements that did not make it into the Newtown Barge Park design would make it into the design of the nearby Box Street Park, which is also in the works, but less far along in the planning process. But residents said they worried they would wait and find their ideal elements missing yet again.
In response to the heated debate, the Community Board 1 parks committee moved to hold off on a planned Tuesday presentation of the park plan. Instead, the committee will wait for neighbors to convene a task force to try to strike a compromise with the parks department.
Some locals said they are definitely going to keep after the city until they are heard.
“I think the parks department expected to come in and have this be a slam dunk, but we need to have discussions about this,” Naplatarski said. “I want them to know that we care and we want to be involved and we expect to be involved.”