And “How long do we have to wait?”
10 years and counting it seems is the answer to this last question. Once upon a decade ago the then Mayor Bloomberg saw such promise for the development in Williamsburg. He put forth a plan to take 75 blocks of a mostly froggy industrial area with a riverfront Manhattan view and turn it into luxury live-ins fit for princes. In order to quell the fear of gentrification protests from the longstanding working-class residents a compromise was made to build a 28 acre waterfront park for all to enjoy.
Council Member Stephen Levin commented recently, “This rezoning would not have passed if it wasn’t for the open space commitment.”
In mid-March there was a protest that brought around 500 North Brooklyn neighbors to the steps of City Hall to inspire the City to finally pick-up the ball and complete the park. The CitiStorage fire, which occupies land that the city has been in negotiations to purchase for the park, had sparked a hope that this purchase would finally go through. Hard facts have put a damper on this hope. The price for the lot has gone up exponentially due to all the development Mayor Bloomberg fought for and the price will continue to inflate as time marches on. If I was a cynical type, I’d think that this delay was part of a plan to dodge the commitment to this park. The present offer for parkland on the CitiStorage site is currently at $140M, over 3 times what the original offer was in the Bloomberg years. To give you some more perspective: Norman Brodsky purchased 11 acres along this waterfront for around $5M back in 1990.
When June comes around it is estimated that the city will have paid nearly $200 million to condemn and buy the first 21 acres for the park. When asked about the last 7 acres, Peter Kadushin, a spokesman for Mayor de Blasio, was quoted as saying, “We are committed to providing residents of Greenpoint and Williamsburg with high-quality parks and outdoor space.”
There are other ways in the works to call attention to and draw funding for this park. Brooklyn Live at the Inlet is one. This summer 50 Kent Avenue will become one of the City’s hottest music venues for an outdoor music concert series. The organizers are projecting more than 50,000 people are expected to attend this series that kicks-off in June, and proceeds from ticket sales will be used to maintain and further develop the Park.
If your interest is spurred to do something sooner than the summer: you can take a walking tour. On May 2nd there will be a two-hour trek that traces the neighborhood’s waterfront and surrounding streets and informs on the area’s gentrifying growth and hopes to inspire the touring party to become active in the fight for more green spaces and fewer condos.
Walking Workshop tour starting at the Neighbors Allied for Good Growth office (110 Kent St. at N. Eighth Street in Williamsburg, http://www.nag-brooklyn.org]. May 2 at 1 pm. The tour is Free, but RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.