‘Union’ busters! City considers plan to demap street near McCarren Park

Union undone: City seeks to remove street in McCarren Park
Community Newspaper Group / Bess Adler

McCarren Park is about to swallow a piece of Union Avenue.

A parks advocacy group is getting closer to convincing the city to close Union Avenue between Driggs Avenue and Bayard Street, and turn it into a park.

Cars traveling south from Greenpoint typically use the street as a shortcut from Driggs Avenue to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, but community leaders want to see the street closed to traffic permanently and the adjacent McCarren Park dog run renovated.

Traffic would be rerouted to N. 12th Street or Lorimer Street, outside the boundaries of the park.

“It’s important because we have a scarcity of parkland in the neighborhood and this helps increase our open space, expanding our larger regional park,” said Open Space Alliance Executive Director Stephanie Thayer.

Transferring control of a street from the Department of Transportation to the Parks Department won’t be cheap. That’s why the Alliance last week pledged $50,000 to fund an environmental study that would determine the most appropriate use of the site.

City officials have not indicated their support for the project or whether the site would stay asphalt or become grass, though Thayer, also a Parks Department administrator, remains confident that the change will happen.

The project has some constituents anxious. The street is currently the site of a weekly Greenmarket, which has had a presence in McCarren Park for 12 years before it moved outside the park last October. Greenmarket officials begrudgingly accepted the move at the time, though most worried that the move would reduce their sales from residents near the north end of the park.

Greenmarket Director Michael Hurwitz said that the Parks Department has told him that it wants the McCarren market on Union Avenue indefinitely, but the notion of demapping the street and turning it into parkland has him concerned.

“All I care about is that we have a home,” said Hurwitz. “My understanding is moving to Union Avenue was an appropriate location for use because we are not interfering with grass [on the McCarren ball fields].”

That said, Community Board 1 Land-Use Committee Chairman Ward Dennis thinks that turning the street into a pedestrian plaza is a good idea for everyone who uses it.

“It’s a very passive end of the park and I think that has worked well,” said Dennis.