Local parks looking for some friends

With parks in North Brooklyn in various stages of development and disrepair, members of the Open Space Alliance are looking for community residents to join groups to support nearby parks that could use a little love.

“We have found that only through persistent attention from community residents who love their parks do things improve,” said Dewey Thompson, a Greenpoint resident and board member of the Open Space Alliance. “The Parks Department does very well with the limited resources they have, but resources are thin and spread out among the park spaces they are responsible for. If you are not acting as an advocate or a watchdog, a lot of the time the park does not get improved.”

Thompson and other members of the Open Space Alliance (OSA) have been actively recruiting Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents to develop ‘Friends of Parks’ groups for several park spaces in North Brooklyn. While parks groups have formed for McCarren Park (bounded by Nassau Avenue and Bayard, Leonard and North 12th Streets), Bushwick Inlet Park (which spans North 9th Street and Calyer Street along Bushwick Inlet), and several smaller parks throughout Community Board 1, McGolrick Park (bounded by Driggs Avenue, Monitor Street, Nassau Avenue and Russell Street), Sternberg Park (bounded by Montrose Avenue and Boerum, Lorimer and Leonard streets), and the park site at the end of Manhattan Avenue do not have official groups of supporters who can lobby the Parks Department for improvements.

“Residents had to have been involved [in McGolrick] at one point,” Thompson said. “We are trying to revive it and put a structure together to attract more people to become involved.”

The OSA serves as a park conservancy for parks in Community Board 1. It is a half-private, half-public entity that can raise private funds and operate through the Parks Department to secure capital improvements that arise from community concerns. In addition to the OSA, the Greenpoint Williamsburg Alliance for Planning and Progress (GWAPP) offers assistance for how the parks are going to run, helps generate issues, organizes members for friends groups apply to OSA for funding for capital improvement projects.

Assemblymember Joseph Lentol hopes that the OSA will be able to recruit residents to support McGolrick Park and promised to help OSA and GWAPP with the recruiting efforts.

“Friends groups are so important to our area parks because through their support and programming, not only do neighborhoods make the most out of their parks but park events are also marvelous times for community members to get to know and appreciate each other in the great outdoors,” said Lentol.

Having a friends group does not automatically guarantee that the park will be well maintained or even that a park will exist on a site in the city.

Greenpoint resident Laura Hofmann’s Friends of Barge Park group has been trying for three years to pressure the MTA and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to vacate two sites that would comprise a park with access to the Greenpoint waterfront. Many of the senior members of her group have moved out of Greenpoint because of rising rental costs and younger residents in the neighborhood have not become actively involved in this campaign.

“If we don’t get the opportunity to find different ways to solve these problems while the present administration is still there, we’re afraid we’re going to wind up with towers and no parks,” said Hofmann.

Christine Holowacz, a GWAPP member and DEP Liaison to the Newtown Creek monitoring committee, hopes that residents will join existing friends groups for future park sites and form parks groups for existing parks to advocate for green space needs throughout the neighborhood.

“We’re hoping people step forward and form a group and oversee the needs of that park. We as GWAPP members cannot know the needs of every park,” said Holowacz.

For more information on how to get involved, go to www.openspacealliancenb.org.