Protecting the Fort: Landmarks commission says Ft. Greene Park plans alter creator’s vision, stalling makeover

Too different: Landmarks Preservation Commission members charged on Thursday that the Department of Parks and Recreation's plans to makeover a corner of Fort Greene Park do not comply with the vision of the meadow's designer, recommending green-space honchos revisit their proposal.
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It’s a historical holdout!

The Department of Parks and Recreations’s plans to makeover an entrance to Fort Greene Park do not reflect the vision of the green space’s creators and honchos must go back to the drawing board, the Landmarks Preservation Commission ruled at a Thursday hearing.

“It seems to be sort of against every one of the historic moments in the design of the park,” said commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron.

The commission, which must approve the $10.5-million proposal for it to move forward because the meadow sits within the nabe’s historic district, tabled its vote on the project, recommending that parks officials revisit their plans instead. Community Board 2 green-lit the makeover last week after months of debate.

The parks department wants to redesign the corner at Myrtle Avenue and St. Edwards Street into a grand entrance by leveling its hilly mounds to create a wide pathway leading to the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument.

But history buffs contended that planner Frederick Law Olmsted would prefer the grassy knolls over a paved walkway because park-goers can hang out on them.

“[The hills] seem to be a very large gathering place, versus more of a passageway,” said commissioner Wellington Chen. “If you’re saying I can perform many programs on a passageway, that’s true. However, that’s not what Olmsted intended, which is a public gathering place.”

Parks honchos countered that not many people use the mounds — except to host the occasional dog costume contest — and residents would get more use from a plaza.

“In general, the mounds create a bit of an obstacle,” said Paul Kidonakis, the project’s landscape architect. “Not as many people would be able to get up on them and use them as they would the plaza.”

Commission members also charged that Olmsted would not have put an entrance on a corner and that the designer wanted park-goers to stumble upon the ship martyrs’ monument, instead of being confronted by it immediately after entering the lawn.

Fort Greene Park is being redesigned under the green-space agency’s “Parks Without Borders” program, which is tasked with sprucing up meadows’ entrances to make them more inviting.

But meadow mavens can open up the park to passersby without compromising its historic character, according to landmarks commission members.

“We’ve seen many examples of critical and beautiful historic parks where the entrance is not the apex of a parallelogram and they’ve worked successful­ly,” said commissioner Meenaksh Srinivasan.

The parks department will reappear before the commission at a to-be-announced date and is expected to present revised plans or evidence that its proposal is still the best option.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 5:54 pm, July 9, 2018: This story was originally posted on September 22.
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Reasonable discourse

Tyler from pps says:
The Landmark people are seriously tiresome.
Sept. 22, 2017, 2:49 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Also... What the hell are they talking about? These "commissioners" think a massive 150 tall on top of a hill is something that is "stumbled upon"?! What?
Sept. 22, 2017, 2:57 pm
Park Watcher from Grassy Mounds, Brooklyn says:
Well...this may be one of the few times a social re-engineering scheme may have been foiled.

Poor Red Apple Group/Catsimatidis and his several luxury developments on Myrtle Ave next to the NYCHA public housing neighbors. Sanitizing the NW corner may not be in the cards...

Poor deBlasio and his OneNYC hyped double-talkin' developer funded public/private partnerships in which his Mayor's Fund takes corporate money written off as a 501c3 non-profit and donors are promised anonymity. Yes the Mayor's Fund-from whence big bucks magically can appear to pay for social re-engineering on behalf of those who prefer a more sanitized Myrtle Ave...w/an asphalt 'plaza' for events and ginning up commerce!?! Tut ,tut...who wants majestic shade trees in a park instead of a new, Parks Department 's plan: a long, sterile hardscape pathway?

The LPC's thoughtful hesitation in order to save a treasured historic legacy is a wonderful thing...thank goodness for them- especially in our current Brooklyn Wild West developer churns.

The community may now have hopes to preserve the lush greenery and Fort Greene Park's authentic & beloved spaces.

To the Parks Dept: Just fix what's what's broken...put in some bathrooms and more lights and ADA ramps and stop reinventing something the community does not want.
Sept. 22, 2017, 3:42 pm
Jesse from Brooklyn Heights says:
Tyler the Troll always has something stupid to say. Here he's contributed two stupid comments.
Sept. 22, 2017, 3:59 pm
Elizabeth from Fort Greene says:
This is amazing. I'm no expert on the Landmarks Commission but I thought the commissioners pretty much always voted upon completion of discussion and testimony at the hearing. I believe an item is scheduled a good while in advance to give the commissioners time to study and review. I think Parks people would have given them at least one private viweing of their plan. The Parks designer saying the mounds "disrupt" the plaza tells you all you need to know about this Parks Department under Commissioner Silver. He's no A. E. Bye, lover of nature. He's more like Robert Moses. What Silver wants Bye's beloved mounds removed for looks a lot like a Robert Moses highway. Let's hope the commissioners take their time and stop Robert Moses in Fort Greene Park.
Sept. 22, 2017, 5:51 pm
Bob from Fort Greene says:
The Parks proposal is pure Trumpism, trying to convert a bucolic, shady landscape that's a refuge from the City into a sterile, boring, paved, uphill monumental boulevard with a column at the top (cutting down scores of mature trees and paving over greenery in the process).

To quote one of the architectural historians who testified at the hearing, "Creating a huge procession of open spaces starting at the street and leading up to the monument produces a grandiose vista...reminiscent of Mussolini's Rome...the [ostensibly historic] plans reproduced in the [Parks Dept] application were probably unbuilt and certainly subsequently modified to create a more contained and reverential approach to the great monument - which is also a cemetery, and not a political showplace."

The same historian also observed, "The Parks Department has a long history of deferring routine maintenance, and then punting the work into capital projects like this one."

Fort Greene Park is a work of art created by some of the greatest landscape architects in history - which the Parks Dept designers are certainly not. The Parks Dept should fix the broken sidewalks, add more bathrooms as the community has requested, perform routine maintenance from now on, and make the park ADA compliant, period. With budgets so tight they claim they can't even repair broken sidewalks, they should quit blowing money on catering to developers who think this kind of view will help sell their new condos.

The LPC was absolutely right to put this destructive proposal on hold. They deserve our thanks.
Sept. 22, 2017, 5:57 pm
Ann from Fort Greene says:
Yes, and to Bob's point: the Parks designers were chastised for presenting a never-built Gilmore Clark design as precedent to undo Olmsted, Vaux and McKim and Meade. Parks also tried to dispute that the mounds were designed by A.E.Bye, but a letter from a renowned designer who worked with Bye on the project kinda puts that attempt at alternative history in the trashcan!
Sept. 22, 2017, 6:27 pm
Ling from Fort Greene says:
People who work out on the mounds told me this afternoon how devastating it would be for the Parks to level these platforms for their routines.

The mounds are next to a playground where children play and run around. The ingenuity of the A. E. Bye design is that the mounds slow people down and prevent any fast-moving activities such as bikers or skaters from hurting the children and pedestrians. It is the best preventive, built-in safety by good design. Anyone working with the Parks saying the mounds are "unsafe" do not understand the ingenuity of a good design.
Sept. 22, 2017, 6:52 pm
Bill from The Hill says:
In the hearing, the Sierra Club New York City Group also submitted testimony about the environmental hazards of removing so many trees, and so much soil, that currently absorb rain. It stated that without them, "rain will stream down and flood the sidewalk and the street and the wind will whip off the denude the favor of a hardscape plaza is contrary to the kind of planning that the Parks Department needs in its park land....The City needs to plan for extreme weather by incorporating genuine sustainability measures. There is no doubt that we will experience periodic extreme storms in New York City. We don't know where the next Harvey or Irma will strike, but we would be naive to think it can't happen here....Fort Greene Park has been allowed to deteriorate without the necessary maintenance for many years and it is time to address the needs of the park but not to redesign it in an unsustainable way."

Seems like a reasonable position - especially when the City is proposing to spend so much money to create an environmentally unsound situation that will only cost more to remedy at a later date.
Sept. 22, 2017, 7:37 pm
Abby from Fort Greene says:
Who paid the elected officials to back the community board's vote against the community? Did the community board get paid to vote against the community? It looks like they did. How much?
Sept. 22, 2017, 9:41 pm
Lucy from Fort Greene says:
The Parks Dept deliberately gave false information about the history of the park and it took the true City historians to provide accurate information that was available to the Parks Dept the whole time whch was brought out at the Landmarks hearing.
The two mounds are used heavily and for many varied purposes. More misdirection from the Parks Dept.
The City doesn't have enough money for many things needed but has many extra millions to throw at a problem that doesn't exist and that the community doesn't want.
The City has a whole department to make the City resilient to climate change why are they not alarmed at such a clearly bad move to cut down 40 trees and create a streaming river road onto the sidewalk and street?
Sept. 23, 2017, 4:21 am
Jesse from Brooklyn Heights says:
The plight of Fort Greene Park and its redesign are pure de Blasio. Trump has nothing to do with any of this. What is "pure Trumpism" anyway? Yes, Trump is a creep but so is the President of Turkey. Neither one is responsible for the sad state of the subways, the rising numbers of homeless, the dreadful public schools , the corruption at City Hall or the waste onvolved with this frivolous tampering with a venerable city park. This is pure de Blasio.
Sept. 23, 2017, 4:36 am
Arnie from Fort Greene says:
If readers want to understand the larger picture...please open the link to a timely 9/22/17 NY Times op-ed titled
"How Parks Loose Their Playfulness":

The author speaks to the would-be efforts of sterilization by private and corporate investments which usurp public spaces...

If the LPC will take a position to protect the treasures of Fort Greene Park-it will preserve not only the trees and grassy mounds...the old and charming stone will validate its own importance on behalf of New Yorkers and the legacy we are entitled to.

From the article:
'In our liberal democracy, any occupation of public space — even, sometimes especially, at play — is a celebration of the rights of assembly and expression. The greatest success of parks and plazas is not in some efficient, one-to-one mapping of activities to facilities, or in the controlled consumption of culture, but in the ways that, as a matter of policy and design, they encourage the taking of liberties.'
Sept. 23, 2017, 8:50 am
Park Neighbors from Myrtle Avenue says:
Fair question...what do the Fort Greene Park users actually say about the Parks Without Borders plan to sanitize their park at Myrtle Avenue?

Check out these videos-heartfelt objections and smart suggestions ...maybe the Parks Dept and CB2 had better REALLY listen:
Sept. 23, 2017, 9:32 am
Bob from Fort Greene says:
@Jesse: I don't think we disagree. The Parks Dept initiative in isolation is of course pure DeBlasio; and so is the support of developer-backed initiatives such as this one. The Trumpism I referred to isn't in funding or backing the initiative, it's in his embrace of dictators and their tactics. The Parks design would convert the approach to the monument into something resembling Mussolini's monumental sculpture and roadways, which were created for political purposes - with all the emphasis suddenly on what will look like a triumphal column, rather than on the public's use of the park. Whether deliberately or not, it makes the monument the focal point from the street, which it never was before, and never was intended to be.

As the historian I quoted remarked, the monument marks a cemetery, and its surroundings were designed for a reverential and thoughtful approach; not a triumphal avenue that paves over greenery and cuts down scores of trees. The Parks design seems to strive for a cheap recreation of the Champs Elysee (which incidentally is a shopping destination and event location, not a public park). But the Fort Greene Martyrs' Monument isn't making a political statement, like the Arc de Triomphe. It's a tombstone, and should be respected as such; hence a design resembling those with political overtones is inappropriate.

Yet the rest of the park in the northwest corner, as currently used, teems with human life: children at play, individuals working out, and informal gatherings. It's a refuge and a respite, shady and welcoming. The historic landscape architects of Fort Greene Park embraced and facilitated that ongoing human life, and its need for refuge and relaxation, as well. But the Parks proposal would curtail or obliterate those uses in favor of bad design, and would also most likely lead to commercial uses of the proposed plaza by Business Improvement Districts, featuring vendors, event programming, etc.

Permitting the destruction of something so beautiful and useful to the public in its current form would be shameful. So let's hope the LPC won't permit it.
Sept. 23, 2017, 9:46 am
Jesse from Brooklyn Heights says:
Come on! You're just throwing hatred of Trump in because he's the go-to guy for everything wrong in the world. The Fort Greene Park redesign has nothing to do with any dictator lover except Bill de Blasio. He sure does love Latin American dictators, especially the Castros. Even so, de Blasio's love of dictators has nothing to do with his intention of scrambling Fort Greene Park. It has to do with his being a Progressive dictator-type himself. Keep your autocrats separate. Blame de Blasio 100% for this bad plan for Fort Greene Park. He deserves it.
Sept. 23, 2017, 11:08 am
Toonie from Staten Island says:
This design is unsustainable - where's the parking? If they don't expand the parking lot, people will just park on the grass. It will be a mess.
Sept. 25, 2017, 2:35 am
Jesse from Brooklyn Heights says:
It should also be noted that I am a white middle class/age male. If you don't agree with me, or Trump, you are stupid and un-American. Don't kneel on this issue!
Sept. 25, 2017, 1:08 pm
Jesse from Brooklyn Heights says:
"Jesse from Brooklyn Heights," "white middle class/age male" you're different from me. I'm not middle age and I don't agree with Trump. My point is the Trump is Hitler nonsense. Trump is a creep. So is de Blasio but it's de Blasio who's responsible for the expensive unwanted redesign of Fort Greene Park. My guess is that you, "Jesse from Brooklyn Heights," have no idea what that redesign is. You're just a Trump jumper, regardless. You'll jump now.
Sept. 25, 2017, 6:35 pm
Jesse from Brooklyn Heights says:
Sorry folks, I forgot to take my meds today. You ever see that movie Split? Yeah, thats me. I love Palin!
Sept. 25, 2017, 7:20 pm
Jesse Echt from Brooklyn Heights says:
As thought, the second "Jesse" knows nothing about the Fort Greene Park redesign.
Sept. 25, 2017, 7:50 pm
Jesse Chet from Brooklyn Heights says:
Nor does "Jesse" know about how much we love TRUMP!
Sept. 25, 2017, 9:42 pm
Joe from Clinton Hill says:
The plans the Parks department proposed are perfectly reasonable, but the the Myrtle Avenue neighborhood people are not going to accept any change because it's a symbol of gentrification. This is has nothing to do with the historical appropriateness of the design, and I doubt the Parks Dept can do anything to make them happy. It's a social/cultural/racial issue.
Sept. 25, 2017, 10:38 pm
K.M. from Clinton Hill says:
In fact the radicals are the seclusionary designers from the Parks Dept. They want to cut down a huge number of mature trees. That's pretty weird for people in the parks business, as is making a huge concrete runway that is a straight line into Myrtle. It's wide enough to land a dirigible on. The residents of Ingersoll and Whitman love the park as it is. Theydon't want the cold ugliness Parks want to replace the beautiful groves of trees with. They want the rees and the wonderful mounds.
Sept. 25, 2017, 11:27 pm
anon from Bed Stuy says:
The proposed re-design of the park would have done irreversible damage to one of the most beautiful parks in the city. What a relief that the LPC did not approve the project. As others have noted here, all that is necessary is routine maintenance. The current topography of the park, particularly given its relatively small size, is one of the things that makes it such a magical place. While Central Park and Prospect Park are rightfully-celebrated, Fort Greene Park is one of the most inspired spaces in this city, perhaps because it isn't quite as well known and also because the steep shifts in grade create a landscape that is unlike any other park, particularly in the way it is set against the surrounding neighborhood.
Sept. 26, 2017, 6:54 pm
Susan from Fort Greene says:
This plan does not include nearly enough parking spaces.
Sept. 27, 2017, 5:47 am
Matt from Formerly Fort Green says:
So the skate board park is off, eh?
What are 40 somethings of Fort Green supposed to do with their time now?
Sept. 28, 2017, 11:41 pm
Fort Greene Park Trees CUT DOWN from Ingersoll and Whitman says:
Find out the facts of the destruction of the Myrtle Ave side of Fort Greene Park this website link to understand the misguided Parks Dept plan:
Oct. 16, 2017, 7:35 am

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