Williamsburg Neighbors Rally “Where’s Our Park?” On the Spot It Was Promised to Be!
“Promises, promises! I’m all through with promises now!” is a line from a Burt Bacharach song that could be the musicalized feelings of those fighting for the full 28 acres of the Bushwick Inlet Park. The promise was originally made by Mayor Bloomberg 10 years ago in order to push through changes in rezoning that opened the door to luxury towers on Williamsburg’s waterfront. The rezoning went through and quickly up rose the skyline along the East River. In counterpoint to the speed with which affluent dwellings were developed the promised park’s progress was stalled. Mayor Bloomberg’s administration put off purchasing the entire park’s parcel of land for various reasons, one of them being price. Rather predictably as time passed, the real estate prices rose exponentially along this waterfront. The passing of time also passed the problem of completing the park to a new Mayor. The bottom line is: it’s been 10 years and still no park.
“There are children here today that weren’t even born yet when we were first promised this park,” said Jens Rasmussen a longtime proponent of this park at the Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park’s Rally on Saturday, May 16th. The rally took place on an asphalt alley alongside the City Storage facility, properties that would more than make up the missing acres that would complete the Bushwick Inlet Park as promised.
Children were a large part of this rally. Standing side by side, behind the electeds and community leaders who took to the stage, was a line of kids each holding a letter or punctuation mark that spelled out #Where’s Our Park? all in a rainbow of colors, plus other groups of kids were holding up banners. It should go without saying that children need green spaces. I said it should go without saying, but when North Brooklyn holds the brass ring for having the least amount of green space per capita in NYC going on decades, “Children need green spaces” needs to be said over and over again by hundreds of voices.
“Where’s Our Park?” was chanted over a hundred times during the rally by the estimated over 300 to 500 people who were there.
On a fence behind the stage a banner hung that read “Broken Promises”. One by one those who spoke addressed the seriousness of this Broken Promises problem. Scott Fraser one of the rally’s organizers and its MC said, “The City has broken its 2005 rezoning promise for improved infrastructure, affordable housing and open space in Greenpoint-Williamsburg. We are calling for a complete moratorium on all waterfront construction until the City fulfills its promise for the 28-acre Bushwick Inlet Park.”
Council Member Stephen Levin said, “You don’t make a promise you can’t keep. So keep your promises! There are a lot of kids here, and I was told as a kid to keep my promises.” You could hear ‘What is this broken promise teaching these kids?’ loud and clear underneath his words.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol followed with, “To this administration, this progressive administration: We want a park! That’s progress!”
Brooklyn Borough President Adams next said, “This is more than a call for open space. A park allows [people] to interact with the beauty of diversity in this Borough.”
“Real Estate development is not economic development,” said Deputy Borough President for Brooklyn Diana Reyna and she struck home her point by saying that commitment for the Tower stage of development has been fulfilled and now, “We have to go into the Open Space stage.”
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez came to speak even though Bushwick Inlet Park is outside her district. “We are one borough! We are one family!” and she warned her part of Brooklyn, “Watch what has happened here. We cannot support a process based on promises.”
Answering the question: What sustains us in a protracted struggle? was Frances Lucerna, co-founder of El Puente. She said, “It is love. It is a force. It is love that sustains us. We must act and hold accountable our leaders.”
“A deal was already made! We are not here to negotiate!” insisted State Senator Daniel Squadron adding, “When you make a promise and you are in a position of authority you have to keep that promise.”
“I was there 10 years ago when Bushwick Inlet Park was promised and I asked ‘How can we believe you?’ Today, as new rezoning proposals spring up throughout my district this incomplete park weighs heavily over that process. We can’t plan in good faith knowing something as significant as Bushwick Inlet Park, the one condition of a rezoning plan that created the North Brooklyn we know today, was never met,” said Senator Martin Malavé Dilan.