Southern Brooklyn parks finally getting upgrades after long delays due to pandemic

A former groundbreaking at the long known Dust Bowl at Quaker Parrot Park in Bay Ridge.
File photo

After years of pandemic-related delays, an array of southern Brooklyn green spaces are getting long-awaited face lifts and remodels this summer — including Bath Beach Park, Asser Levy Park in Coney Island and Bay Ridge’s infamous “Dust Bowl.”

The makeovers come after Mayor Eric Adams gave the green light earlier this year for projects paused during COVID-19 to move forward.  Community leaders and local advisory boards leadership are praising the city’s Parks Department for the coming improvements, which they say will make a difference in the everyday lives of their neighbors. 

“Our City’s parks were vital to the physical and mental wellbeing of New Yorkers during the pandemic – and the past two years have proved that access to high-quality parks is critical for people in all neighborhoods,” a Parks representative said in a statement to Brooklyn Paper. “We’re so excited about the improvements coming to South Brooklyn for local residents, their pets, and everyone who comes to visit.”

Among the many, many projects now underway is the replacement of the synthetic turf at Quaker Parrot Park — also known as “The Dust Bowl”  and the improvement of the green space’s drainage. The Mayor’s Office issued $1 million in funding for the project, and the field is closed for about a month to the public as of July 18.

Shore Road Park is getting a major facelift, starting with the installation of a dog run on its southern end, inside a large asphalt area near the park’s Fourth Avenue entrance that has long been closed to the public. Work on the dog run began on July 11.

The incoming Shore Road Park Dog Run.NYC Parks

The sprawling Bay Ridge park will also see the renovation if its asphalt walkway, south of the ballfields by the 97th Street entrance and surrounding the Field House in the western section of the park. The roughly year-long renovation is being funded by $1.27 million in capital funding acquired by the area’s councilmember, Justin Brannan.

“Since being elected, I’ve worked hard to allocate over $50 million to renovate just about all of our popular local parks and playgrounds. Right on time, earlier this year, Mayor Adams announced that all projects that had been put on pause during COVID could finally proceed,” Brannan told Brooklyn Paper. “This means over the next 12-16 months, you will see shovels in the ground at parks and playgrounds from Colonial Road to Cropsey Avenue – many of which haven’t seen any love in decades!”

Brannan, a fellow dog owner, also provided $1 million in capital funding for the new dog run.

Another large-scale Bay Ridge green space, Owl’s Head Park, will see beautification, though is not technically under construction. A temporary art installation is headed to the western edge of Owl’s Head Park this month — a project five years in the making spearheaded by Williamsburg artist Eirini Linardaki, who lives and works on the Greek island of Crete. 

The installation comprises four several-hundred pound concrete sculptures designed to resemble ships and vessels made out of materials like plastic jugs.. They’ll be displayed overlooking New York Harbor to tell the story of immigrants who came to country through the city’s waterways.

Some of the sculptures that are heading to Owl’s Head Park. Courtesy of Eirini Linardaki

Linardaki selected Owl’s Head Park as the location for this project after learning about the greenspace from a group of Fort Hamilton High School students who worked with her on a previous mural project during a visit to Crete in 2016. 

Construction of the Fort Hamilton Athletic Courts is now complete. The $2.2 million project, which saw the reconstruction of the park’s basketball and tennis courts, took a year to complete.

Further east in Bath Beach, the city’s Parks Department is currently expanding the playground at the neighborhood’s eponymous park and installing new play equipment, pavement, safety surfacing, furnishings and drainage. The work, which began in March, also included the demolition of the park’s bocce courts and multipurpose play area and construction of new sitting areas and adult fitness areas, as well as reconstruction of its central path. It is projected to be completed in March 2023. 

Gravesend’s Calvert Vaux Park is finally scheduled to have construction completed this month on its new comfort station and maintenance facility. The projects were initially projected to be completed in May 2021, but work was delayed due to the pandemic just months after construction began in late 2019.

Calvert Vaux’s new maintenance facility was designed by 1100 Architects and includes offices, a maintenance shop and a storage space for equipment that services the green spaces, gardens, sports fields and playgrounds, according to the architect’s website. New signage, lighting and landscaped pedestrian pathways are incorporated into the new design as well as a graffiti-resistant facade and clearer sightlines for better supervision of the park.

McDonald Playground, also in Gravesend, is undergoing a $3 million construction of its play area funded by the Mayor’s Office, the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office and City Council District 47 (under former Councilmember Mark Treyger) and is slated for completion in April 2023, a year after the work started. 

The planned renovations for McDonald Playground.NYC Parks

Brooklynites with a green thumb welcome the installation of water service to a number of community gardens across the city, including Coney Island’s Surfside Multicultural Garden Coalition on Surf Avenue between W. 28th and W. 29th streets. The work will also be completed nect April. 

Coney Island’s Asser Levy Park will see the construction of adult fitness equipment completed next May. 

The district manager of Coney Island’s Community Board 13 said many of his district’s projects are long-awaited as they were drawn up prior to the pandemic and have experienced severe delays. 

Plans for the new adult fitness center coming to Asser Levy Park.NYC Parks

“Everything’s fully on schedule which is a great thing and people should be excited when they see the new comfort station and also the new adult fitness equipment,” Eddie Mark told Brooklyn Paper. “Before the pandemic, it was always on the drawing table now that it’s two or three years later, it’s coming to the final completion.” 

In Sheepshead Bay, Mellett Playground, which infamously sits flooded in stagnant water and unusable for several months a year will see a variety of upgrades very soon as work was expected to be completed in May, according to NYC Parks’ website, which says construction is 98 percent complete. 

The improvements to the children’s play area include new steel play equipment, spray shower, pavements, site furniture, security lighting, landscaping and utilities. 

A few blocks north at Kelly Park, the playground is also seeing a reconstruction slated for completion next May.

Former member of Sheepshead Bay’s Community Board 15 and current member of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association Ed Jaworski said the well-traversed park needs some love and that any upgrades to Kelly Park will be appreciated by the community members of all ages — especially if Parks manages the upkeep.  

“Of course, parks are a significant asset in all city neighborhoods, so any upgrades, especially combined with continued maintenance, is wonderful and appreciated by the kids, adults, and family users,” Jaworski told Brooklyn Paper. “Kelly has always been heavily used and sure can use upgrades.”

Theresa Scavo, chair of Community Board 13 which includes McDonald Playground in Gravesend, and the two Sheepshead Bay playgrounds, said she is overjoyed by everyone’s dedication to making these projects happen.

“I am enthralled with the efforts of our elected officials and the Parks Department for upgrading and beautifying our area parks,” she said in an email to Brooklyn Paper.

At Marine Park’s namesake green space, Parks honchos are constructing a new Salt Marsh Nature Center that will provide additional office and exhibition space as well as ADA access around the building and bluff perimeter.

Renderings for the new Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center.NYC Parks

Finally in southern Brooklyn’s most eastern outskirts, Canarsie Park is undergoing the construction of its long-delayed comfort station, slated for completion in October 2023. The nearly $4.4 million project was funded by the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, the NYC Mayor’s Office, City Council, and private sponsors.

The city was supposed to begin construction on Canarsie Park’s only comfort station in the westernmost section of the park in April 2019 but needed to redesign plans for the bathrooms to be powered by electricity after National Grid put a moratorium on natural gas hookups in response the state, putting the kibosh on the utility’s construction of a 23-mile pipeline off the coast of Coney Island. Meanwhile, park users were forced to do their business in the bushes.