Gates of wrath! Greenpoint fights illegal fences along waterfront

The Brooklyn Paper
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They say good fences make good neighbors — but these fences ain’t good.

Greenpoint residents, community groups, and politicians are calling on the city to force waterfront property owners to remove illegal gates that have been erected across public streets.

Two weeks ago, city workers tore down a chain-link fence that had long closed the riverside foot of Kent Street from the public, but the ends of other neighborhood blocks — including Java and Noble streets — remain obstructed.

“They have privatized what should be public land,” said Stephanie Thayer, executive director of the Open Space Alliance, a group that joined Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights) in the fight to reopen the long-closed section of Kent Street.

According to Thayer, business owners along the North Brooklyn waterfront erected the unpermitted fences during the 1970s and ’80s to protect their properties from trespassers.

But as crime declined and civilian demand for waterfront access increased, the land owners never removed the unpermitted barriers — and the city never laid down the law.

That left Greenpoint residents like Mike Gomez locked out.

“[Java Street] is a nice cobblestone street — it should be open to the public,” he said.

Yassky agreed — and he pinned the blame on city bureaucrats in a scathing letter last month to Robert Lieber, the city’s Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, demanding the removal of all three fences.

“No one at present appears willing to actually remove the fences for fear of incurring potential liabilities,” he said. “I insist … that the removal of these street-end fences and gates be addressed immediately.

“Greenpoint continues to have virtually no access to its waterfront and [proposed] parks are still years away from completion,” Yassky continued. “These street ends, once fully open, accessible, and clean, will provide the community with three desperately needed waterfront havens.”

Weeks after receiving Yassky’s letter, the city fulfilled the lawmaker’s wish on Kent Street.

“It’s a great thing that we’re now going to be able to have access to the water,” said Michael Freedman-Schnapp of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth. “These can be informal spaces where you can go and relax, they can be gathering places for the community throughout the year.”

Java and Noble streets, however, remain blocked.

The iron gate that crosses Java Street is often unlocked, giving North Brooklyn residents some access to the waterfront block, but the barrier itself is enough to convince many passersby that the public street is actually private property. Some drivers told The Brooklyn Paper that they refuse to park on the block due to fears that the gate might be closed when they return.

The gate has also turned the seemingly private street into an attractive location for homeless people, according to Yassky.

The Noble Street fence provided public safety after a fire ravaged the Greenpoint Terminal Market, but Yassky claims the site is now safe enough for pedestrian access. In fact, sources say that film crews are often given access to the street end, while neighborhood residents are barred from the block.

Property owners responsible for the gates could not be reached before The Brooklyn Paper’s impenetrable online deadlines.

Eventually, the street ends — some of which are planned as connectors between long-promised parks and a waterfront esplanade — might be decked out with benches and seating, but for now, many residents are happy just to have access.

“It might just be a crumbling street end, but people are eager to get down there and be by the water,” said Thayer.

— with Shannon Geis

Updated 5:14 pm, July 9, 2018: Story was updated to be clearer.
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Reasonable discourse

GP from Greenpoint says:
The Noble Street gates were not put up because of the fire in 2006. There was a community march in 1998 to have the Noble Street gates removed. See video of 1998 march here

Yassky has had almost a decade to do something about it. He is a worthless politician.
Aug. 13, 2009, 12:03 pm
Eric McClure from Park Slope says:
The Greenpoint waterfront needs to be liberated.

How 'bout someone with a truck and a heavy chain go over there and just pull them down? Cut out the middleman!
Aug. 13, 2009, 12:39 pm
Teresa from Greenpoint says:
Great idea Eric! Talk about taking it to the streets... !
Aug. 13, 2009, 2:13 pm
Christine from GUARDIAN Traffic Spike Systems says:
for a solution to unsightly gates. Keep cars out with out the gates and fences. Pay special attention to the Stingray model. It is pedestrian friendly.
Christine Richards
GUARDIAN Traffic Spike Systems
Aug. 18, 2009, 2:20 pm
Helen from Greenpoint says:
These streets/piers were blocked off in the 70's/80's because of crime and drownings in the area, not just private owners protecting their property from vandalism. Which, by the way, was rampant.

In the late 90's and early 2000's, the neighborhood quieted down, crime decreased and all was well. Now with all of the construction and influx of so called "hipsters" and folks with enough money to shell out for $2800 rental apts or 1/2 million dollar co-ops w/$2800/mo. common charges, we're a target for criminals.
The more money and people in the hood, the more crime!
Think about it.
Vandalism in Greenpoint was a BIG crime, back in the day There wasn't anything to steal and rape was hardly ever heard of. Now, we have "rich" folks and pretty little tatooed hipster girls heading home to their insecure, overly expensive, tenement apartments, alone, and viewed as perfect targets for deviants.

In the 70's we had scooter cops and patrol cars. I haven't seen a cop "on the beat" in years. Who's protecting all the new comers? (and old timers?)

If the fences are removed, and don't get me wrong, I think they should be, we need more security. Hipsters and Natives alike, are all in the same boat. We all work hard, live to pay the bills and deserve to be safe.
Aug. 21, 2009, 1:12 am
Laura from Greenpoint says:
Councilman Yassky's office actually refused to help get the fence removed some years ago. He's only working on this now, because he's running for Comptroller.
Aug. 31, 2009, 11:37 pm

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