North Brooklynites demand city finish 16-year-old Bushwick Inlet Park

Steve Chesler Parks
Steve Chesler, co-chairperson of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, stands outside a gated lot at Kent Avenue and N. 12th Street.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

When the city rezoned the north Brooklyn waterfront under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2005, officials promised a sprawling riverside greenspace almost the size of Fort Greene Park as a sweetener for the impending residential development boom along the former industrial coastline.

Some 16 years later, luxury high-rises dot the Greenpoint and Williamsburg skyline but less than one-fifth of the proposed Bushwick Inlet Park has opened, and area activists are calling on City Hall to hold up its end of the bargain.

“With all these towers we’re just going to be on top of each other unless the remaining parcels of BIP are built,” said Steve Chesler, a co-chairperson of the park stewards group Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park.

The 27-acre lawn was originally slated to stretch along Kent Avenue from N. Ninth to N. 15th streets and was the biggest single piece of new parkland officials committed to under the mid-aughts land-use changes.

A 2005 rendering of the full Bushwick Inlet Park.NYC Parks Department

The planned meadow will connect to developer-funded esplanades and parks further north, creating a continuous publicly-accessible waterfront all the way up to the northern tip of Manhattan Avenue, according to the 2005 open space master plan.

The park has been delayed as the city had to buy parcels from private landowners for hundreds of millions of dollars and due to the likely steep costs of cleaning the old industrial lots to get them safe for recreational use. 

So far, the city has built the first roughly 5-acre patch including a soccer pitch between N. Ninth and N. 10th streets, which opened in 2010 followed by a community center in 2013, and Parks gurus finally broke ground on a 2-acre plot at 50 Kent Ave. in April, which is slated to wrap a year later.

The Bayside lot south of the inlet and CitiStorage warehouse and waterfront property have yet to get any funding for cleanup and development into the remaining parcels of Bushwick Inlet Park.Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park

A boomerang-shaped sliver around the Bushwick Inlet at Franklin and Quay streets known as the Motiva site is in its design phase and is slated to finish by mid to late 2022.

But the city has yet to release a plan or schedule for some two-thirds of the park, which are currently occupied by the giant burned-out CitiStorage warehouse which the de Blasio administration bought for $160 million in 2016, and a fenced-off former Bayside fuel oil depot. Since that purchase five years ago, all of the land has been owned by the taxpayer. 

The fenced-off Bushwick Inlet between N. 14th and N. 15th streets.Photo by Kevin Duggan

Brooklyn Community District 1, which encompasses Greenpoint and Williamsburg, experienced the largest growth of new housing units by far in the five boroughs between 2010-2020, according to a February report by the Department of City Planning.

As the population increased, area lawns have been worse for wear, including WNYC Transmitter Park at Greenpoint Avenue, which has large patches of dirt due to the high number of dogs in the nabe. Bushwick Inlet Park’s first section is also suffering as the artificial turf pitch is in dire need of replacement, something Parks reps said they plan to do this spring.

One councilmember and borough presidential candidate lamented the city’s slow pace of making good on their commitments.

“[The developers] got their land they got their rezoning and then they just move forward with their permits and everything works well, buildings go up and then the community is left fighting for the public spaces and the promises made,” said Williamsburg Councilmember Antonio Reynoso on a recent tour of the area.

Tetris-like towers rise as part of the Greenpoint Landing megadevelopment at Eagle and West streets.Photo by Kevin Duggan

He and a cadre of elected officials from the city, state, and federal level penned a letter to de Blasio on May 20 asking hizzoner to kickstart the project by earmarking money in this year’s municipal budget to demolish the CitiStorage warehouse, which they estimate will cost about $16 million.

The pols are also calling on the relevant city agencies to work with them on a full plan to fund the remaining park, which will include a cleanup of some of the lots due to their centuries of historic industrial pollution.

“We call on you to take the steps necessary to live up to the City’s promise to North Brooklyn and establish a full capital plan for completing the remediation, design, and construction of BIP,” reads the missive.

Candidates vying to replace term-limited Greenpoint Councilman Stephen Levin have taken on the issue as well.

Elizabeth Adams said she would consider suing the city over the delays and Lincoln Restler said Bushwick Inlet Park would be his “top funding priority in north Brooklyn,” Bklyner reported

A spokesman for the mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park will host a rally demanding funding for Bushwick Inlet Park on Wednesday, May 26, at 6:30 pm at the intersection of Kent Avenue and N. 11th Street. For more information visit www.bushwickinletpark.org/event/wheres-our-park-rally/