Meadow reimagined: Locals propose new amenities for Cobble Hill park set for facelift as part of LICH redevelopment

Meadow reimagined: Locals propose new amenities for Cobble Hill park set for facelift as part of LICH redevelopment
Photo by Aidan Graham

It’s their green dream!

A tiny Cobble Hill park that a developer will refurbish as part of its scheme to build a seven-building complex in the neighborhood must include amenities that make it more inviting to the community, according to locals who attended a recent meeting about the redesign.

“What if you want to have a performance? If you want to have a puppet theater come in, or do karaoke, or a poetry reading, for example. We could create a space where that might be possible,” said Glenn Kelly, the Chairman of Parks Committee for Community Board 6, at the Feb. 7 gathering.

Roughly 40 residents attended the meeting sponsored by local civic group the Cobble Hill Association, where they debated the future of the park, which Fortis Property Group is renovating as part of it’s deal to make over the former Long Island College Hospital complex.

Fortis must seek public input on any changes made to the green space at the corner of Henry and Pacific streets and two other neighborhood parks — all of which are privately owned but open to the public — on the property due to a 1995 agreement the city made with former hospital leaders, which the builder inherited when it got the green light to redevelop the medical-center site in 2014.

The miniature meadow is the smallest of the three Fortis must redesign, and has been closed for almost two years due to the construction of the first of the developer’s seven buildings going up at the hospital site, a 15-story condo tower on Henry Street dubbed 5 River Park.

The rectangular recreation space currently features just six chess tables and several benches scattered throughout it, leaving plenty of room for reimagination, a Fortis rep said.

“Currently it’s just a boring square. From my perspective, it’s not engaging in any way, shape, or form,” said George Fontas.

Fontas and other reps for the developer presented attendees with renderings of new park amenities, such as water fountains, more benches, and lampposts, in two aesthetic styles used by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation — a classic Victorian style, and a so-called 1964-contemporary style, which Fontas admitted is not as modern as its title suggests.

“1964 isn’t contemporary, but it is for Parks,” he said.

And although some in the room demanded more built amenities in the meadow, others suggested its redesign should incorporate more landscaping to improve the park’s visual appeal.

“Personally, I would like more planting and green space,” said Cobble Hiller Thomas Spath.

But no matter what new features Fortis may ultimately install, the builder must keep the chess tabletops, which one attendee called a hallmark of city green spaces.

“There’s something very New York about a park with chess tables,” said Alec Baxt.

Spath agreed, claiming the gaming spaces give the park an intimate, secure ambiance.

“The tables make the park feel more inviting and safe,” he said.

Fortis leaders also plan to make both of the park’s entrances on Henry and Pacific streets handicap accessible as part of the redesign, a change all attendees cheered because disabled residents can now only enter via Henry Street.

“Along Pacific street there is not any handicap access. So we’d like to change that,” Fontas said. “We think it would be good to make both sides accessible.”

The developer will present a new round of designs for the Henry Street park at CB6’s Parks Committee meeting on March 20, where locals will get another opportunity to weigh in on the plans.

Fortis bigwigs will then submit a final scheme to the Parks Department for approval, with the hope of kicking off construction this summer, its reps said.

And the builder will share its proposed makeovers of the two other Cobble Hill parks in the coming months, as it begins work on more buildings in its seven-structure complex.

Community voice: Cobble Hill resident Alec Baxt, right, suggests to the crowd what he would like to see included in the park’s design.
Photo by Aidan Graham

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