Did you know that New York City was recently ranked as the second best city for parks in the country? Did you also know that when I originally typed that sentence I accidentally wrote “tanked as the second best city for parks” which might sometimes seem more accurate to residents? It’s true though – only Minneapolis beat us out. In fact, 97 percent of New Yorkers are within a 10 minute walk from a park according to a recent article on WNYC.
Greenpoint ranks pretty high in the city in terms of access to green space, but not all parks are created equal. While a lot of money has recently been pumped into revitalizing the waterfront (a worthwhile and daunting task), some parks are getting left behind. Like McGolrick Park. With rundown playgrounds and missing swings, residents and parents have been working together to get McG (new nickname?) a much needed tune up.
I met with Maria Fitzpatrick from the McGolrick Park Alliance recently to learn more about the $450,000 the alliance was awarded for park rennovations. Maria got involved in revitalizing the park when she realized there were no capital improvements planned for the McGolrick at all, despite years of neglect.
While the $450,000 is a great start, it was estimated at a Brooklyn Parks Department Feasibility meeting that updating the park in its entirety would clock in at an eye-popping amount of $2 million. Once the city budget is passed in the coming weeks, the funding will officially be allocated for the McGolrick Park project; the funding will be appropriated to the Parks Department, who will conduct the actual work. The Parks Department will also decide if the renovations will begin with the money already allotted and broken into phases, or if they’ll wait to get the full $2 million before beginning the work.
So what will the $2 million go to? Mainly the playgrounds which are especially run down and out of date. Maria gave me a tour of the chipping paint, uneven ground, and the children’s water spray fountains that haven’t been updated since the 1930’s. As Maria put it, the fountains were a WPA project i.e. post-Depression FDR construction (and not in a cool, vintage way). They’re built on uneven ground with the drain ending in a sink hole, resulting in a gross puddle when the sprinklers are on. And most of the playground equipment is close to 20 years old.
In a survey sent to the 649 people who voted “yea” for participatory budgeting, 250 voiced their concerns about the park. The most frequent comments pertained to safety issues due to the outdated equipment, uneven pavement, poor sanitation, and inadequate fencing and gates.
As Maria noted, even the kids in the area have been to other parks and noticed that their park isn’t as nice. Other parks have brand new playground equipment; the Mc Golrick decay makes them feel like they’ve been forgotten (queue photos of sad forgotten Greenpoint children).
When Maria saw the extent of the park’s neglect she started talking to other parents in the neighborhood and they reached out to the District 33 Participatory Budgeting Process. She subsequently went to several meetings with the Parks Department to discuss funding. Crucial in securing the funding and bringing attention to the issues of the park, were the Open Space Alliance, Councilmember Stephen Levin, Assemblymember Joe Lentol, and Community Board 1. These organizations and officials recognized that this area of Greenpoint was underrepresented and are still working to find increased funds for the project. Meanwhile, the Parks Department is also working to recruit more revenue streams.
While $450,000 out of $2 million might not seem like a lot, Maria sees this as a small, yet significant accomplishment, considering how much progress has been made in just 6 months. Usually securing funding through a government department takes much, much longer.
Maria is pleased with where the process is so far and greatly appreciates everyone who’s helped along the way. As she put it, “it’s engaging the community to recognize a common need and make something happen.”
If you’d like to help out email mcgolrickalliance [at] gmail [dot] com. By getting the word out and galvanizing the community, we could see a more modern and beautiful McGolrick Park in the coming years.