Williamsburg, Greenpoint residents: We were told there would be park

Power plant’s gas pains

It burned down, and now they are burning up.

The city must deliver on its 10-year-old promise to turn a recently burned-down storage facility on the East River in Williamsburg into a park, and it should spend the $100 million necessary to buy the property it needs to get the job done, residents demanded this week.

The Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents say they were promised the parkland as a part of the 2005 rezoning that crammed thousands of new waterfront apartments and people into the neighborhoods — with not enough space for residents new and old to chill out.

“Our children do not have places to play,” said Greenpointer Jens Rasmussen. “We need to get Greenpoint back to being known for being green because of nature, not for developer money going into the waterfront.”

But some of the promised park isn’t even owned by the city, including the massive CitiStorage facility on Kent Avenue between N. 11th and N. 12th streets, which burned down two weeks ago and is still smoldering. That fire has led residents and local pols to reinvigorate a campaign to get the city to live up its promise to build Bushwick Inlet Park in its entirety.

“What is important is for the city to realize that it committed to the park and to finally make good on that promise, because the park is not a luxury, it is a mitigation to make up for the terribly low green-space-to-population ratio,” said Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg). “People have to be able to trust that the city is going to live up to its commitments.”

The city’s decision not to purchase the land when the zoning was changed may have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Back in 2005, the CitiStorage plot was worth about $30 million. A decade later, it is valued somewhere between $73 million and $100 million.

Smoke screen: Firefighters battle the fire that engulfed the CitiStorage facility on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg in late January.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

But the city has already spent a pretty penny on the parkland. It paid $93 million for the portion of Bushwick Inlet Park that is already developed, and it is slowly paying off $68 million for the nearby Bayside Fuel plot, which it will own in the spring, according to Levin.

Activists say the city needs to purchase the CitiStorage lot, no matter how high the cost.

“The price tag is not my concern,” said Greenpoint resident Laura Risi Hofmann. “If the city cannot do this, it should not have done the massive rezoning.”

Still, not all residents are convinced that spending the money on the park is a good idea.

“There are much better things to spend $100 million on,” said Greenpointer Kevin Dailey. “There are other parks that need thousands of dollars and they cannot get that.”

Park advocates say they will rally at City Hall on March 12.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurf‌aro@c‌ngloc‌al.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitt‌er.com/‌Danie‌lleFu‌rfaro.
Park half empty: Bushwick Inlet Park is only partially complete, and the city has not expressed any interest in spending the tens of millions it would cost to acquire the land it needs to make good on its promise.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini