The parks department is playing defense after it cordoned off the waterfront section of a Red Hook Park in the dog days of summer without advance notice.
The Department of Parks and Recreation’s Kings County head showed up to a community meeting on Thursday to apologize for the fencing-off of the harbor side of Louis Valentino, Jr. Park, which happened without even area pols and community board members getting a heads up.
“My grandfather told me never to mess up a good apology with an excuse, so I’m not going to make excuses,” said Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey to a dozen or so park lovers gathered at the Red Hook library. “I take full responsibility for not having better communication, and I promise to do a better job in the future.”
Red Hookers got their hackles up last week when the mysterious fences appeared, blocking access to the waterfront section of the park while still allowing access to the park’s pier, which juts out into the New York Harbor. Would-be park-goers were already smarting from the ongoing closure, begun this spring, of nearby Coffey Park to allow for a $2.3 million facelift.
The appearance of the latest set of barricades set the phones at the office of Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Red Hook) ringing off the hook, he said.
“We got a lot of frantic calls,” said Menchaca, who set up the meeting with Jeffrey. “I want to make it very clear that we’re going to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The fences in Valentino Park are part of an upgrade that will rehab a sea-battered retaining wall, replace derelict crushed-stone pathways with asphalt, and improve drainage in the park, according to the parks department. Jeffrey said at the meeting that the repairs would cost just less than $100,000, but a spokeswoman for the department could not confirm the exact cost on Friday.
Despite his contrition, the neighbors who showed up Thursday weren’t ready to forgive just yet, and spent more than an hour lambasting the commissioner.
“It is embarrassing that Parks would not notify any community leaders or even the community board,” said Victoria Hagman, a member of Community Board 6 and a neighborhood activist. “You need to be more accountable to the community.”
The project could take as little as a month to complete, but won’t start till fall sets in, Jeffrey said.
Hagman thanked Jeffrey for his apology, but said he had better keep neighbors in the loop next time.