So much for preservation: Residents blast landmarks agency for okaying Ft. Greene Park plan with ‘meaningless’ changes

Building a new Fort: Community board approves Ft. Greene Park makeover after months of debate
NYC Parks

They Greene-lit the project and locals are seeing red!

Some Fort Greeners are fuming after the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted on Nov. 21 to approve a controversial redesign of one entrance to the neighborhood’s eponymous park, arguing the plan barely changed after landmarks honchos criticized its disregard for the meadow’s creators’ vision and told Department of Parks and Recreation officials to take it back to the drawing board months ago.

“I think it’s a tragedy,” said Enid Braun, who lives nearby Fort Greene Park. “They pretty much doubled down on their original design and provided more historical arguments for why it’s appropriate, which we completely disagree with.”

Commission members — who must approve the $10.5-million project because the meadow sits within the nabe’s historic district — tabled their September vote on it, instead asking parks honchos to rethink their plan that proposes transforming the green space’s entry at Myrtle Avenue and St. Edwards Street into a grand corner entrance leading to the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument by leveling some hilly mounds near that corner of the lawn, chopping down trees, and creating a wider, paved walkway to the memorial.

Changes in the new plan, which landmarks honchos unanimously voted to approve, included slightly downsizing the pedestrian pathway, putting in more plants — including a peculiar 17-percent increase in shrubbery, and creating a smaller entrance with rounded Belgian-block corners to make the park more welcoming, which green-space honchos claim is their main goal for the project.

But critics of the redesign, who objected to replacing the grassy mounds with the walkway, removing trees, and moving the entry to a corner of the meadow, blasted its revisions, claiming neither the parks department nor the commission took their objections to heart before proposing and approving them.

“They are meaningless — one was 17 percent more plantings, which is just flowers, that’s not trees,” said Michael Gruen, an attorney representing Friends of Fort Greene Park, a group that opposes the project. “I don’t think that anything was done since September that added to the attractiveness of the design. This park will be ugly compared to what it is today.”

The landmarks agency’s vote followed that of Community Board 2, which approved the redesign in September after months of debate over whether it catered more to gentrifiers or longtime locals who often visit the meadow.

But some opponents are not giving up their fight against the project, according to the lawyer, who said he and fellow critics are considering how they might halt it after the landmarks commission blocked their attempt to delay the makeover by demanding an environmental study on the impacts of its provision to cut down healthy trees.

“We have to consider the options available,” said Gruen, who is also the president of the City Club of New York, another group advocating against the redesign. “There are definitely possibilities, and like any party who just failed, we will typically spend a few days thinking about it.”

The Fort Greene Park overhaul also calls for installing a water feature, resurfacing the meadow’s basketball courts, repairing sidewalks, adding more lighting, and expanding the barbecue-pit area.

Construction is expected to begin in 2019, according to a parks department rep, who said work will take place in phases in order to keep the Myrtle Avenue entrance open to park-goers throughout the process.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.