Want a new park in Williamsburg? Come to the meeting tonight!

Williamsburg is so starved for open space that a councilwoman wants to build a park on a platform over the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Williamsburg’s park-starved South Side is so desperate for green space that residents are entertaining the idea of building a park on top of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway.

Two neighborhood groups, St. Nicks Alliance and El Puente, have sponsored a $100,000 feasibility study, awarded to DLand Designers, to determine how to build new parkland over an expressway that has been blamed for everything from increasing asthma rates to exacerbating gang violence ever since Robert Moses shoved it through the neighborhood 50 years ago.

Ideally, the groups want a 1.2-acre concrete platform over the BQE between S. Third and S. Fifth streets.

An existing park between Broadway and S. Fourth Street, known as Rodney Park, covers about two-thirds of an acre. Residents want more — if the money is there.

“It would be a good idea to cover the highway because of noise and pollution,” said Nilda Romero, who attended a recent forum. “We need a baseball field. We really don’t play much soccer here.”

Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Williamsburg), who first proposed adding a plaza over the highway in 2005, hopes that the city will eventually build a concrete deck that will link Rodney Park to Marcy Avenue, while adding benches along the area and creating one acre of open space above the highway.

“In addition to achieving open space, we would be uniting communities that got divided [by the highway],” said Reyna. “I don’t want to limit the concept of what could be applied.”

DLand architects would not predict how much a park would cost, though a new two-acre park in Boston, built over a parking garage in that city’s financial district, cost about $76 million. A finished study about the feasibility — and cost — of this project is expected in a year.

There is a pressing need for more open space in the heart of Williamsburg, a neighborhood that has just .6 acres of open space per 1,000 residents — roughly one-fifth the citywide average. More open space is being built along the waterfront, but that doesn’t help the bulk of the area’s residents, said Frank Lang, the housing director for St. Nicks Alliance.

“It is always easier to do things at the periphery, but people don’t live on the periphery, do they?” he said.

A forum will be held at PS 19 [325 S. Third St. in Williamsburg, (718) 387-7820] on May 26, 6–8 pm.

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