Vacants go verdant: Empty Bushwick lots will become parks

Going green: (From left) Keri Kroboth, Darren Kong and Greg Damiani, members of Evergreen Lots, say they’d like to use this vacant lot on the corner of Bushwick Avenue and Beaver Street for a garden.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Someone’s putting the bush back in Bushwick.

The neighborhood named by Dutch settlers for its plentiful woods is better known today for noisy elevated train lines and burgeoning bar scene, but residents hope the neighborhood will once again live up to its name when a planned park transforms a local eyesore into an urban oasis.

The city will convert a swath of blighted properties at the busy intersection of Bushwick Avenue and Beaver Street into a green space as soon the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which owns the vacant lots and three connected, graffiti-coated garages, razes the buildings and clears trash from the site.

The Parks Department says it won’t share its vision for the space until the demolition work is complete, but neighbors and activists already have ideas of their own.

“I’d just love to see people growing food there,” said Keri Kroboth, a Ridgewood resident and volunteer with the newly-formed community garden group Evergreen Lots.

Kroboth said she’s talked to Parks officials about the idea of including vegetable plots in the park plan, but has heard no promises yet.

The abandoned lots housed a welding shop and a used car dealership until the owners locked up for good after losing a condemnation fight with City Hall in 2007.

News of the planned park came as a welcome surprise to other locals who have watched graffiti and litter accumulate behind the roll-gates throughout the years.

“We need any kind of park we can get, so long as it keeps people out of trouble,” said Jason Velasquez, a bouncer who lives in the nearby Rheingold Gardens complex. “For a lot of these kids, there’s nowhere to go.”

Bushwick’s green space has grown nearly seven-fold since 1999, when it had the second worst children per acre of parkland ratio of any neighborhood in the city. But the last decade has also seen an increase in population density as developers have scrambled to cash in on Bushwick’s latte and loft-living allure.

The park-to-be lies in the middle of a particularly congested drag, just up the hill from the high-rise Bushwick Houses and in the shadows of two mixed-income developments, with a proposed 1,000-unit project on the site of the old Rheingold brewery threatening to further crank up crowding.

The new park is exactly the relief the community needs, according to neighbor Nancy Garcia.

“Just some plants and trees would be nice,” said Garcia. “A place to sit down.”

Reach Nathan Tempey at nathantempey@gmail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/nathantempey.

Plant plan: The city will turn this vacant lot in Bushwick into a park.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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