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So much for preservation: Residents blast landmarks agency for okaying Ft. Greene Park plan with ‘meaningless’ changes

Different enough: Landmarks Preservation Commission members on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the parks department's amended makeover of a corner of Fort Greene Park, but some locals argued that the updated proposal is hardly different from the original redesign plan seen here.
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They Greene-lit the project and locals are seeing red!

Some Fort Greeners are fuming after the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted on Nov. 21 to approve a controversial redesign of one entrance to the neighborhood’s eponymous park, arguing the plan barely changed after landmarks honchos criticized its disregard for the meadow’s creators’ vision and told Department of Parks and Recreation officials to take it back to the drawing board months ago.

“I think it’s a tragedy,” said Enid Braun, who lives nearby Fort Greene Park. “They pretty much doubled down on their original design and provided more historical arguments for why it’s appropriate, which we completely disagree with.”

Commission members — who must approve the $10.5-million project because the meadow sits within the nabe’s historic district — tabled their September vote on it, instead asking parks honchos to rethink their plan that proposes transforming the green space’s entry at Myrtle Avenue and St. Edwards Street into a grand corner entrance leading to the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument by leveling some hilly mounds near that corner of the lawn, chopping down trees, and creating a wider, paved walkway to the memorial.

Changes in the new plan, which landmarks honchos unanimously voted to approve, included slightly downsizing the pedestrian pathway, putting in more plants — including a peculiar 17-percent increase in shrubbery, and creating a smaller entrance with rounded Belgian-block corners to make the park more welcoming, which green-space honchos claim is their main goal for the project.

But critics of the redesign, who objected to replacing the grassy mounds with the walkway, removing trees, and moving the entry to a corner of the meadow, blasted its revisions, claiming neither the parks department nor the commission took their objections to heart before proposing and approving them.

“They are meaningless — one was 17 percent more plantings, which is just flowers, that’s not trees,” said Michael Gruen, an attorney representing Friends of Fort Greene Park, a group that opposes the project. “I don’t think that anything was done since September that added to the attractiveness of the design. This park will be ugly compared to what it is today.”

The landmarks agency’s vote followed that of Community Board 2, which approved the redesign in September after months of debate over whether it catered more to gentrifiers or longtime locals who often visit the meadow.

But some opponents are not giving up their fight against the project, according to the lawyer, who said he and fellow critics are considering how they might halt it after the landmarks commission blocked their attempt to delay the makeover by demanding an environmental study on the impacts of its provision to cut down healthy trees.

“We have to consider the options available,” said Gruen, who is also the president of the City Club of New York, another group advocating against the redesign. “There are definitely possibilities, and like any party who just failed, we will typically spend a few days thinking about it.”

The Fort Greene Park overhaul also calls for installing a water feature, resurfacing the meadow’s basketball courts, repairing sidewalks, adding more lighting, and expanding the barbecue-pit area.

Construction is expected to begin in 2019, according to a parks department rep, who said work will take place in phases in order to keep the Myrtle Avenue entrance open to park-goers throughout the process.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 6:53 pm, December 6, 2017
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Reasonable discourse

Joseph from Fort Greene says:
Parks intends to spend over $10 million to tear down stonewalls and mature trees. This is an insulting waste of money but doesn't bother our electeds officials. Actually they all lined up for it, every single one of them, Erik Adams, Velmenette Montgomery, Walter Moseley, Laurie Cumbo, Olaneke Alabi.
Nov. 24, 2017, 10:40 am
ElFortGreenero from Fort Greene says:
Why can’t we have anything nice? The redesign is well overdue! I don’t understand why people are objecting to taking down the ugly mounds that look like the base of Mayan ruins without the pyramids. No one uses them and frankly they are just plain ugly, they look like an afterthought. I’m glad this was approved.
Nov. 24, 2017, 3:34 pm
K. from ArKady says:
If you can drive your car through it, it ain't a park, it's a road.
Nov. 25, 2017, 12:21 pm
Donna says:
Why don't they build a starbucks in this park? That would make people actually want to go there!
Nov. 26, 2017, 8:42 pm
LK from Fort Greene says:
Shameful removal of 54 mature shade trees that provide homes to animals, clean the toxic air and give shade to children, picnickers and athletes. The Park Dept repeatedly lied at meetings and tours saying the trees were unhealthy and at the end of their life cycle but their own report shows the trees are being removed for design not condition. Where are the city agencies that are seeking a sustainable future in the face of global warming to prevent this arborcide? New saplings do not replace mature healthy trees. The mounds are used all the time and provide more green and earth. Now nothing but a big hardscape plaza. 10 million dollars doesn't even improve the bathroom for the people in the park.
Nov. 27, 2017, 8:49 am
JP from Fort Greene says:
LK - Nobody lied. They said the invasive Norway Maples were at the end of their lives and not in the best shape. They didn't say that about every tree. It's unfortunate that some people have selective hearing.
Nov. 29, 2017, 7:28 am

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