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Tree-son! Advisory panel okays Ft. Greene park changes despite locals’ demands to hold vote

Now: This is what the Myrtle Avenue entrance to Fort Greene Park currently looks like.
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They’re sowing the seeds of discord.

The Community Board 2 parks committee voted to approve a controversial plan to makeover a heavily-used entrance to Fort Greene Park on June 19, despite objections from residents who said locals — many of whom live in nearby public housing complexes — could not weigh in because the meeting’s agenda was announced just four days before it.

“The community ought to hold a scheduled public hearing in the fall where there will be plenty of notice and people can come,” said Fort Greene resident Enid Braun. “You may love the design, but many of us don’t. How can this board make this decision without hearing from the stakeholde­rs?”

The parks committee voted 5–0 with one abstention to approve a $10.5 million plan that includes a new entrance at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and St. Edwards Street with a water feature and grand sidewalk leading to the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument. It also includes removing trees, cutting out chunks of the stone wall surrounding the meadow to accommodate two 10-foot-wide ramps, doubling the size of the barbecue area, resurfacing the basketball courts, adding lighting, and fixing the sidewalk, according to landscape architect Paul Kidonakis.

Park honchos are revamping the green space with money it received through Parks Without Borders, a program to make meadows more inviting, and funds from Borough President Adams and Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Clinton Hill).

But residents say the cash should go towards other improvements, instead being earmarked to construct a fancy front yard for people moving into the swanky new developments nearby.

“The slick language we heard here tonight to make parks more inviting is absurd. I don’t know anyone who is scared to go to Fort Greene Park because there isn’t a flower bed,” said Fort Greene resident Joe Gonzalez.

The agency’s first iteration of the plan, which it revealed in February after meeting with locals in November of last year, drew criticism from residents who called it a waste of money. It held another public meeting in May at the nearby Ingersoll Houses community center, where denizens demanded that green honchos not gentrify their park, which many said they consider as their own backyard.

The Brooklyn Parks Department Commissioner told residents then that he planned to present final proposals in June or September, but the agenda for the June 19 parks committee meeting was only released on June 15, making it impossible for many to attend.

The president of the Walt Whitman Houses Tenant Association said she would have gone, but because the meeting fell on the same night as her monthly tenant association gathering, she and a lot of residents at the public housing complex on Myrtle Ave. opposite the park didn’t show.

Cumbo, who had not seen the plan, demanded the agency postpone its vote until more community members could see it, and the advisory panel’s decision to move forward with its vote ignored the elected officials’ concern about the lack of input, a rep for the pol said.

“We would have liked to respond to a final design,” said Monica Abend, Cumbo’s chief of staff. “We believe it was rushed, and there wasn’t a lot of transparency. The Councilwoman’s opinion is being overlooked a bit.”

The head of the Historic Districts Council, an organization that advocates for the city’s historic nabes, also submitted a memo asking that the vote be pushed back, citing concerns about the historical authenticity of the plan.

And another architect in attendance slammed the final proposal as a disgrace to the park’s creators.

“It’s a desecration to all the original designers who worked on the park,” said Michael Godkin.

The architects intended for people to stumble upon the staircase to the monument, Godkin said, instead of being met with a walkway at the sidewalk. But Kidonakis defended his city-backed plan, arguing that creators wanted the staircase and monument to be observed from afar and up close.

The plan will next face the community board’s executive committee, which will vote on it at its June 26 meeting. But the panel’s decision is only advisory, and the parks department will make the final call.

The entire revamp should take 18 months, but the parks commissioner promised to split it into phases so the entire corner is not closed at once.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 5:57 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Fern says:
The Parks Department launched this initiative in 2015 and there have been numerous meetings since, even an extra one called for by many of the people quoted here. There are always people who arrive at the end of a process and claim to have known nothing. They should get their heads out of their, excuse me, they should get their heads out of the sand.
June 21, 2017, 8:44 am
Lionel from Boerum Hill says:
Why did the parks committee vote when there's so much opposition? Couldn't they have postponed the vote until everyone had had a chance to comment on the final design? Apparently they didn't want anyone to see it if even Councilwoman Cumbo wasn't given a peek. Apparently the community board has no more respect for our elected officials than it does for us. Talk about arrogance.
June 21, 2017, 11:33 am
steve from fort greene says:
This is a terrible idea! Waste of money, unnecessary.... The park is beautiful the way it is. We don't need this upheaval. The plan is not an improvement.
June 21, 2017, 3:33 pm
Corey from Clinton hill says:
They plan to cut down so many trees to do this. This plan is so horrible. The guy pushing for it is a complete philistine. Someone else should be in charge of this park, someone who actually has sense.
June 21, 2017, 3:37 pm
Fern says:
Lionel, I think your beef is with the Parks Department. When it brings a design before any Community Board, they vote on it so they have a recommendation for the Art Commission. As for the Councilwoman, if she wanted to see the design, she should have called Commissioner Silver and asked to see it. She puts alot of money into parks in her district. Silver wouldn't tell her "No".
June 21, 2017, 4:47 pm
Lionel from Boerum Hill says:
What "Art Commission" are you talking about? As for Councilwoman Cumbo, she should have been given the basic courtesy of viewing the final design. Instead she was kept in the dark anf given the same four days notice to see the shrouded plan unveiled for the first time at the parks committee meeting. As noted, CM Cumbo was dissed along with her constituents. Why Parks and CB2 choose arrogance over inclusion, I guess you would have to ask them. Beats me.
June 21, 2017, 6:37 pm
Estelle from Fort Greene says:
those big trees are our shade and our air conditioner. we'll be upset if they prune the heck out of them them or remove them. you already can see the monument from a distance from all over the park! this is the area of the park with the most trees and its where we need it most! what's the big idea anyway? some big wig want a feather in his cap.
June 21, 2017, 9 pm
Parks Dept Will Kill Trees from Myrtle Ave says:
Parks Without Borders is a scam to 'clean up' the neighborhood for the fancy developer buildings & keep away the Whitman and Ingersoll unwanted 'riff-raff' while they cut down trees & put in an unwanted cement-like Plaza and long flat harsh corridor into the heart of the park.

What's the rush?-They already just snuck the final plan before the Community Board Parks Committee because they don't want the residents to know what they're ending up doing to the Park.

If it's such a wonderful redesign-SHOW IT TO THE COMMUNITY and delay the presentation to the rest of Community Board 2 UNTIL SEPT - when everyone returns , have seen the 'final design, and can have real community voices in our park's destiny.
June 22, 2017, 1:31 pm
Bob from Fort Greene says:
How do we know Community Board 2 hasn't been back brokering with the Parks Department? The board went all in with the Brooklyn Public Library to deliver the Brooklyn Heights branch to a luxury tower developer friend of the Mayor's. Same CB, different done deal?
June 22, 2017, 4:18 pm
Matt from Greenpoint says:
Trees kill people and block surveillance cameras.
Pave It!
June 22, 2017, 7:54 pm
Keith from Clinton Hill says:
I agree
June 23, 2017, 5:09 am
lk from Fort Greene says:
Parks With Borders! We want separation from the street, not merging. This is Commissioner Silver's vanity project. Nobody, Nobody, wants a big hardscape plaza. Many mature shade trees will be removed and little saplings planted as "restitution". Even park workers think that Parks Without Borders is terrible, but Czar Silver demands full allegiance. Why are they afraid of allowing the users to respond to the final plan? Millions of dollars wasted to remove a wall, trees and add a plaza. Maybe Starbucks will want to open up a stand to make the park more acceptable to the high rise residents down the road. There is no glory for the Commish in just dong maintenance.
June 23, 2017, 6:02 pm
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
Hmm 10.5 million to remove trees and to replace a historical design. No wonder they don't want too much review. Why not install a movie screen and carousel while you're at it? How much to get the bathrooms working and free of overdoses?
June 24, 2017, 12:17 am
Beverly from Clinton Hill says:
Worst plan ever.
I moved to NY from KY because of the beauty of this park. Now it'll look like a bank plaza.
Sept. 20, 2017, 10:23 pm

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