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Bushwick Inlet Park protest outside City Hall

Stuck in park: Williamsburg, Greenpoint residents take waterfront fight to City Hall

Public speaker: Councilman Steve Levin nearly lost his voice at a rally on the steps of City Hall because he is so adamant about the city buying land in Williamsburg to turn it into park.
The Brooklyn Paper
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More than 300 protesters rallied outside City Hall on March 12 to demand the city make good on its decade-old promise to turn a waterfront plot in Williamsburg into parkland.

Many in the crowd, so big that officers forced late arrivals to wait outside the barricades, said they feel crowded in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, where waterfront parks were supposed to ease the burden of the towers allowed by a 2005 rezoning. Some parks have been built and others are under construction, but Bushwick Inlet Park remains incomplete. The burning of a CitiStorage warehouse on Kent Avenue in late January and into early February sparked renewed calls for the city to buy the property and convert it to green space.

“I have lived here my whole life and there has never been enough open space,” said Slade Koval of Williamsburg. “This rally might be a way to finally change that.”

So far, the city has created less than a quarter of the 19 football fields of parkland the neighborhoods were promised. Residents and politicians at the demonstration said that is unacceptable.

“This is not just a promise. It is a moral obligation and a human right,” said Luis Garden Acosta, founder and president of the community group El Puente. “We need this. It is not just a luxury.”

Increased property values driven by the area’s zoning-enabled development boom make buying the waterfront lots a tall order. At the time that the city made the commitment, the CitiStorage plot was worth about $30 million. A decade later, the value of the land is likely somewhere between $73 million and $100 million. The city needs to act fast, according to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D–Williamsbu­rg), or more developers will put up skyscrapers that are even harder to buy than the industrial buildings that still occupy some waterfront properties.

“We are facing an unbroken wall of towers on the waterfront,” she said. “This is our last chance to stop that from happening.”

The area’s assemblyman said that price concerns are a cop-out, and that Mayor DeBlasio needs to drop the cash.

“I know he is going to try to blame this on the Bloomberg administration, saying it is too expensive,” Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Greenpoint) said of DeBlasio. “I do not care if it was a prior administration, and I do not care how much it costs. The mayor has to live up to the city’s promise.”

The winter’s first period of above-freezing weather in months was accompanied by a rash of outdoor demonstrations, including many against Gov. Cuomo’s education measures outside schools across Brooklyn and one against the eviction of Williamsburg’s Swinging Sixties Senior Center outside Brooklyn Supreme Court, all the morning of March 12, and one for making Lunar New Year a school holiday at the City Hall steps the following day.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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Reasonable discourse

Moses Kestenbaum ODA from Williamsburg says:
Mayor Deblasio you broke your election promises , you said park land is needed , so where is it? You said that the Williamsburg waterfront is for all to enjoy, so why can't we enjoy an unobstructed walkway? Mr Mayor its your choice to be only a one termer , we won't forget come Election Day that you lied
March 12, 2015, 7:17 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
If a zoning change can make the land more valuable, why not make another zoning change to make it less valuable?
March 12, 2015, 8:28 pm
Alex from Williamsburg says:
It will soon become clear if Deblasio is really a man of the people or another slave to developers. This neighborhood needs open space a lot more than the few low income units a new luxury high rise would produce. Besides what's the point of creating more low income housing (or any housing for that matter) in an area that already has one of the lowest open space ratios in the city. This space was set aside for parkland in the rezoning for a reason. Even with only a small percentage of the new development completed, the population in Greenpoint/Williamsburg has already outpaced the area's infrastructure. It is absolutely a necessity!!
March 12, 2015, 10:43 pm
Chris from Greenpoint says:
Building Moratorium in the area that was rezoned until the green space promised is provided. SIMPLE.
March 13, 2015, 7:50 am
bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
parkland yes. affordable housing yes. But no condo towers for mega millionaires who will keep it empty.
March 13, 2015, 8:01 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
This ain't Manhattan, and these people will not get their park. This is going to be another injustice to the middle class and poor.
March 13, 2015, 8:22 am
Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from Southside, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, United States says:
As a member of El Puente for more than ten years, I am deeply concerned with how the major, specific issue of the lack of open, environmental space, which is art of the major, broader issue of gentrification could spread into historically poorer neighborhoods in Brooklyn such as Bushwick, Brownsville, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvestant, Crown Heights, Flatbush, East Flatbush and Red Hook in the next decade. This is a future trend that cannot be stopped anytime soon. I believe that the mayor's "affordable housing" is what the "King of Rock n' Roll" called it a "Devil in Disguise." In other words, this plan mostly supports young yuppies, professionals, hipsters, bohemians and artists who can affordable the rent. That is why in the past couple of decades, our landlords are trying to force those who lived in the same building for decades because they could not afford the rising rents. In the full 23 years that I am living in the very same, six-floor, apartment building with my family, I have never seen a change of local about my building, my block, my community, my neighborhood, my borough, my city, my state, my country and my world.
March 13, 2015, 10:38 am
c2check from Bushwick says:
NYC could really use an organization like Pittsburgh's Riverlife. The riverfronts would make outstanding open spaces in a city sorely lacking, especially if most or all of them could be opened up as public space.
March 13, 2015, 1:36 pm
Joan from Clinton Hills says:
Why is it okay for white people to protest the change to their community but not OK for blacks to do the same?
March 13, 2015, 1:59 pm
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
Ha. Good luck finding the park they promised us at Atlantic Yard. And FG Park is an embarassment, there is hardly any open space for play there anymore.
March 15, 2015, 8:14 pm
"Interloper" from Kent Ave says:
Sorry to those of you who are continuing to look for handouts, but you don't get to have "low income housing" on prime waterfront property anymore.
March 17, 2015, 11:49 am

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