Locals prefer empty lot over new playground at Carroll Park

Residents want Carroll Park’s open spaces to remain just that — open.
Photo by Ben Verde

A group of Carroll Gardens residents told reps for the Department of Parks and Recreation not to build a new playground at Carroll Park, saying they prefer the vacant blacktop that’s already there. 

“Don’t fix what’s not broken,” said Seth Hillinger, a Carroll Gardens dad. “Keep it as big as it is.” 

Reps for the Parks Department came to a meeting of Community Board Six’s Parks Committee on Dec. 18 seeking the civic group’s endorsement for a major renovation of the President Street play space, where the city wants to erect a new playground that would occupy a large portion of the asphalt lot there, which features painted lines for a baseball diamond and basketball court, along with a fenced-in bocci court that sees little-t0-no use. 

And while there’s nothing flashy about the empty blacktop at Carroll Park, Hillinger says the lot provides kids with ample room to play, which is safely removed from traffic — two things in short supply around Carroll Gardens.

“This is where I taught [my son] to ride a bicycle, it’s essentially a big open sidewalk,” said the father. 

Another Carroll Gardens resident said the playground would attract younger children to an area frequented by more mature athletes, potentially creating conflicts between kids of different age groups. 

“You can’t put a toddler playground over here, and an older playground over there, and then have kids running around with their baseballs and soccer balls,” said Sarah Weber, who volunteers as a gardener in the park. “You need the playground equipment to be more integrated.” 

The draft vision unveiled on Wednesday. NYC Parks

In the end, members of Community Board Six’s Parks Committee voted by show hands for a project that improves the play equipment currently at the park — which already has a play space — in lieu of creating an entirely new playground. 

City officials stressed that the designs presented on Wednesday were purely preliminary, and that the project remains unfunded at this time. Parks officials will continue soliciting community input and modify designs based on the feedback they receive.

This was the second time the city came to board members with their pitch for the Carroll Park redesign, and earlier renderings of the park showed the blacktop being divided between artificial turf and playground space, with a seating area in the corner. 

The designs shown on Wednesday had fewer specifics. There is no commitment to turf being installed on the upper level, but officials said that remains a possibility, with the space around the playground being labeled as “flexible use.” The size of the proposed playground expansion has also been scaled down significantly. 

At past community meetings, residents had pushed for a litany of improvements, including a dog run — after a group of pet owners were issued fines for walking their dogs off-leash amid what one local man described as an ICE-style raid. But Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Martin Maher shot down the possibility of pooches ever having a spot to run free in the historic park, saying there just wasn’t enough space. 

“There is not going to be a dog run at this park,” he said.