Thanksgiving came early to a band of community activists, who have been fighting for a park for years. On Monday, November 21st, the good news arrived that Norm Brodsky agreed to sell his 11-acre CitiStorage site for $160 million to the City.
Steve Chelser, a founder of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, said, “I’m Ecstatic, walking on air because this long drawn-out campaign just took a big step, but a lot of it was glacial by the way [progress] was moving.”
It took 11 years to get those final 11 acres! A promise was made by Mayor Bloomberg in 2005 that in exchange for rezoning the waterfront there would be a 27-acre park due to the deficit of open space in North Brooklyn. It has been worked out that before the towers along the Williamsburg waterfront were built each person had a queen-sized mattress of open space. However, because of the rezoning, prices for the available parcels ballooned due to the increased monetary potential.
Community leaders kept asking about the status of the park, but it was the fire at the CitiStorage site in late January of 2015 that put a fan to the fire and set the activists into full-throttle action.
Scott and Kim Fraser, also leaders of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, mentioned soon after they moved into the neighborhood in the late eighties, they were inspired to get involved by the community work that Irene Klemtowicz and Elizabeth Ronchetti did (closing the Greenpoint incinerator for one). “They weren’t scientists they just read materials the EPA put out and came to community meetings and asked questions,” said Kim Fraser. She further said that she saw these two ladies make headway by “following through, staying on people’s toes, and keep asking questions.”
When asked what the goals for the park are now, Scot Fraser said, “It will be a many years long process. We have to find out what is under the property and ascertain culpability to see who pays for remediation … could be a decade to get it all cleaned up. 50 Kent’s cleanup is seven years in the making.”
There is much to keep an eye on until the park becomes a reality to a time when, as Kim Fraser says, “Future generations will sit and read on benches and see the inspirational view [that creativity thrives on].”
Yet presently there is an overwhelming feeling of gratitude: grateful that Norm Brodsky came to the table and made a deal; thanks also to Mayor de Blasio, State Assemblyman Joe Lentol, City Council Member Steve Levin, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Borough President Eric Adams, Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna, State Senators Daniel Squadron and Martin Dilan, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, and Public Advocate Letitia James; and boundless appreciation to all the others who played a part such as Brooklyn Community Board 1, Open Space Alliance, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, NYC Parks, El Puente, and so many other community organizations and members who camped out during a rain storm, joined in a rally, etc.
As Council Member Stephen Levin said, “Most of all, I’d like to thank the community. This is for you. I appreciate the countless community residents who have tirelessly advocated for Bushwick Inlet Park, especially the Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park and the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn. Their steadfast support, undiminished for two decades, galvanized the community in anticipation of this historic agreement. We will continue to rely on your efforts, advocacy, and support to make our neighborhoods a vibrant and safe place for everyone.”