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May 5, 2017 / Brooklyn news / Fort Greene / Brooklyn Is Angry

Longtime residents: Don’t gentrify Fort Greene Park

It’s their backyard: Ingersoll Houses tenant association president Anthony Sosa railed against makeover plans for Fort Greene Park at a meeting on May 3 and says the city must include the community in its design process.
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They want a people’s playground!

Plans to makeover Fort Greene Park must include perks for the people who live in the public housing complexes surrounding it and shouldn’t just create a fancy facade to make the meadow look good for gentrifiers, neighbors demanded at a meeting p on Wednesday night.

“We don’t want a vanity project, we don’t want a promenade, we don’t want more pavement,” said one Fort Greener to Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Marty Maher, who led the meeting. “We want more grass, more intimate spaces, we want more recreational opportunities for our kids and seniors. This is everyone’s backyard.”

The Parks Department is in the midst of redesigning the greensward’s Myrtle Avenue entrances — which are heavily used by residents from nearby Walt Whitman and Ingersoll Houses — with $5 million dollars from the city’s Parks Without Borders program that aims to open and beautify parks.

Green space honchos revealed renderings in February that showed significant changes on the corner of St. Edwards Street, including clearing a way to the Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument by taking out a stone wall and granite platforms, and adding wheelchair ramps and a water feature. The agency says it based the designs on historic blueprints for the park, as well as feedback from a November meeting attended by about 40 people.

The preliminary plan also included chopping down rows of trees to create the path up to the memorial, but it sparked such outrage from locals that the Parks Department decided to conduct a more thorough examination of the timbers, concluding that they can and will be saved, according to Maher.

“We found that the trees had solid roots and we could preserve them,” he said.

Residents fumed at the new agency head for the majority of the meeting, during which he asked denizens to giver ideas for activities and programs in the park. Instead, locals used the opportunity to rail against the earlier plans and a perceived lack of outreach, and let him know how popular the urban meadow is, urging Maher to advocate for keeping part of it open during the revamp.

Construction will take 10 to 18 months and Maher said that portions of the park will need to be closed during that time.

Locals hang out at the park’s barbecue area in warm months and treat the green space like their own backyard because their apartments don’t have places to sit outside, they told him, and one area leader said the tree-hugging agency must ensure residents will have somewhere to grill and chill during the makeover.

“We use the barbecue — that means our summer is done our winter is done, our spring is done,” said Anthony Sosa, who is the tenant association president for Ingersoll Houses. “We don’t go on the other side of the park cause y’all don’t allow barbecuing there. While this construction is going the other side its going to get ugly, Marty. People want their park.”

Maher said he is planning on installing 20 more tables in the next week and promised to relocate the barbecues to somewhere else in the park during construction.

But he couldn’t guarantee that he’d be able to keep areas such as the playground open, instead offering the consolation that residents will be able to pick up where they left off when the makeover is complete.

“Sometimes you can accommodate, sometimes you can’t. Things we can accommodate like barbecuing, it’s easy enough to relocate,” he said. “When construction is done, any activity you could’ve done you can do after.”

Along with the barbecues, locals asked Maher to expand the basketball courts, but the commissioner said this is unlikely because the Landmarks Preservation Commission — which must rubber stamp any changes to the landmarked park — wouldn’t approve it because of water pipes underneath.

Residents supported more lighting and repaving the sidewalks along the park, and stressed the agency must be wary of changes that would negatively impact the community. “I think the neighborhood has seen a lot of ‘improvements’ that are destroying what exists,” said Laurena Allan. “We need to preserve what’s important to this community and [the park] is very important.”

Maher told the room to voice their concerns to Community Board 2, which could eventually vote on a new proposal as early as June. The board’s vote is only advisory, however, and the final decision lies with the city agencies responsible for the makeover.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 5:59 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Thomas from Greenpoint says:
Proposing to unnecessarily cut down trees is highly suspicious.
May 5, 2017, 11:16 am
under your spell-checker says:
Not sure where Fort Green Park is but don’t gentrify Fort Greene Park either.
May 5, 2017, 11:46 am
Engaged Park-goer from Fort Greene says:
Among the concerns is the disruption of the park closest to Public Housing while paying lip service to a commitment to preserve the basketball court-it would seem that the priority is to cater to the new luxury unit residents on Myrtle Ave.

On the other hand, any number of those who use the park for exercise, health, fresh air, social gatherings, emotional well being and just an appreciation of nature- have been left out of the conversation...

Fix the infrastructure needs...add lighting...add benches...shade...plantings...repair drainage issues...make the curfew the same at both sides of the park...plenty to be constructively remedied...But...but...

Closing the northwest side of the park to move the entrance for a misdirected 'view' of the monument and putting in an antiseptic cement 'plaza' at a cost of millions of our tax dollars is unacceptable & frankly embarrassing.

Maybe NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver needs to rethink his neighborhood park jogging path schemes?
May 5, 2017, 12:38 pm
adamben from bedstuy says:
Sounds great, and with some tweeking, people on the east side should be accomodated. It's a big park, for those commenting not from the area, so something for everytone. Yes, of course this is due to gentrification. certainly not happening in brownsville. but, i think all of us can embrace improvements.
May 5, 2017, 1:01 pm
Bk native from Kensington says:
I love fort Greene park and have been going there for years as I have friends that live nearby. You can't please everyone and frankly people should be thankful and happy about improvements to the park. Yes there's been gentrification same as every neighborhood throughout Brooklyn and the other boroughs. But, what's funny to me is..all the areas of Brooklyn..including Coney island where I grew up and places like Crown heights, Fort Greene, East NY and more were primarily white areas til the 1950s and 60s. I'm not a fan of gentrification either as its caused rents to go up drastically all over but hating on people for moving someplace less expensive than Manhattan..though Brooklyn is now just as expensive..is kinda ridiculous and racist. Folks need to accept others and all cultures..that's what makes NY great. Stop the hate and spread the love!!
May 5, 2017, 4:21 pm
Eftgreene from Fort Greene says:
The issue here is that this is a top-down plan rather than a more typical Parks Dep't capital project generated by the users of the space. This meeting was only held because of pressure from those who had only found out about it from the February 16 meeting held at Ingersoll Community Center, which 100 people attended, voiced concern and were discounted. It was only confirmed as scheduled a little more than a week ahead so outreach was limited and even elected officials for the area were not notified or invited by the Parks Department. How can the Community Board vote next month on a plan with no final design? Wouldn't the Board, in fact, in essence be approving a blank check, simply agreeing to whatever the Parks Department decides to do down the road? This is $7 Million!! To move a stairway a few feet, create a paved plaza for whatever events the Conservancy deems are fine, events that will interfere with long-standing uses of the area? Money for better infrastructure like drainage, lighting, more seating and plantings, improved pavements: Sure! It is the esthetic goal that is disturbing: latte plazas for the new high rise residents down Myrtle.
May 5, 2017, 4:56 pm
Been there and done that from Myrtle Ave says:
Fort Greene Park has badly needed repairs and flooding issues. Fix them...yes.

The Parks Department would be best served to focus the city Capital Grant $$$ on infrastructure needs and get out of the business of social re-engineering...in this case a barely disguised patronizing of the developers who pay to play & want to 'clean up' the neighborhood on the Myrtle Ave side even as luxury condos flood the community.

To the Parks Dept and Commissioner Silver...no one is being fooled.

The only way to disabuse the neighborhood of this repurposing is to convene a real panel of community stakeholders who know exactly what is needed and to interact directly with the architect. No phony charettes pretending to 'listen'...been there and done that.
May 5, 2017, 5:24 pm
Marcus from Fort Greene says:
I agree the Parks Department has tried to sneak this complicated FGP makeover by, and I'm surprised because Marty Maher has been a great face for years for the Parks Department, a wonderful exception to the aloof, know-it-all bureaucrat City government is otherwise full of. Maybe becoming Commissioner has taken a toll on his natural openness. I hope he can go back to the drawing board on this alienating scheme. The neighborhood was unaware of the huge money award and Parks' intention to use it to such trivial effect. It reminds me of the Department of Transportation's dedication to pedestrian plazas when the streets are full of potholes and No Patking and No Standing signs put where no one can see them. Btw, the stalled $5,000,000 makeover of Fowler pedestrian plaza is anchored on moving the statue of Gen. Fowler 3 feet for $500,000. Do Parks and Transportation share the same frilly designer?
May 5, 2017, 5:31 pm
Boobjump McPooty from Fort Greene says:
This article is offensive to women.
May 5, 2017, 6:01 pm
LK from Fort Greene says:
Repairs and infrastructure improvements are needed to FG Park, not a make over that no one asked for. This looks like someone putting abstract city planning ideas into effect with no outreach to the community users or with understanding of what is needed for the park or the users. In a city with such severe housing needs for low income people, with so little green space in CB2, with so many infrastructure needs, it is additionally insulting to see $7 million dollars thoughtlessly spent. Make every dollar meaningful. No foo foo plazas for the $5 latte drinking crowd.
May 5, 2017, 7:13 pm
Imagineif from Fort Greene says:
Wow - people don't want the crumbling infrastructure fixed on the NW corner?

Parks could have focused work on the SE corner and fixed the bad sidewalk at the market; put artificial turf down on the dustbowl; corrected numerous drainage issues; created people exclusive grass field areas, and funded night lights at the tennis courts. Now that would have been gentrification!
May 5, 2017, 7:41 pm
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
The Parks Dept is a joke. FG Park is a joke, has been for a long time. Create a soccer field already. None of our kids need more pavement.
May 5, 2017, 10:55 pm
Bob from Fort Greene says:
The Community Board could vote against this weird plan and it wouldn't matter because the CB has no power. The point of the community board is to give the appearance that citizens have a voice. It's just a political dodge. When politicians want to cite the CB as for a project, they act like the CB vote is critical. When they want to dismiss the CB's vote as inconsequential, they say so. They're right, too. Community boards are elaborately empty of meaning. At best they're a diversion.
May 6, 2017, 1:25 am
samir kabir from downtown says:
Maher is obviously bending over to increase real estate values. I would not be surprised if he proposes to turn Ingersoll Houses into cooperative apartments. This is what white people do, folks. There goes/went the neighborhood.
May 6, 2017, 5:10 am
Missy says:
Samir Kabir - if you hate white people so much you are very welcome to return to the middle east. Why did you move here if you hate us?
May 6, 2017, 8:12 am
LK from Fort Greene says:
Racist comments have no place here.
How about if everyone who came from some place else went back to where they, their parent, their grand parent, etc, came from? Unless you are Native American, you or your ancestor came from another country. Most likely illegally or before such distinctions between legal and illegal existed. Never forget it.
May 6, 2017, 9:49 am
Sally from Bay Ridge says:
Native Americans are from Russia.
May 6, 2017, 10:32 am
Brenda says:
I agree with LK - racist muslims like Samir Kabir don't belong here. I would go as far as LK says, sending all of them back. But surely it would better if most of them weren't here.
May 7, 2017, 8:48 am
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
Remember when people there were getting robbed in the middle of the day at gunpoint? Good times ...good times.
May 7, 2017, 2:49 pm
Matt from Greenpoint says:
Trees can be dangerous and people have even been known to climb them. Limbs fall on heads and kill people. And most importantly they interfere with surveillance technology and crowd control.

Gentrify the hell out of this wasteland!
May 8, 2017, 7:13 pm

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