Yesterday was the year anniversary of the 7-alarm fire that razed the CitiStorage warehouse on the Williamsburg waterfront.
At a rally held near the site on N. 11th Street and Kent Avenue, more than a few attendees wondered why the Williamsburg waterfront never saw massive, suspicious fires prior to its 2005 rezoning into a lucrative development opportunity.
But the event wasn’t held in service of a whodunnit mystery. Instead, open space activists brought in local representatives to drive home the message that the local government still owes the city one (1) Bushwick Inlet Park.
To be clear, the 28-acre park has been in the works for nearly two decades. In 2005, when the Williamsburg waterfront was rezoned, the open-space promise was part of the deal Bloomberg cut with neighbors and local politicians in exchange for all those pricey condos and added congestion. With the CitiStorage building aflame (which sits atop a major parcel needed to complete the park), fears were reignited that the land would go to another developer, and though de Blasio recently said he would deny a residential rezoning in the area, activist group Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park isn’t about to rest easy until the city acquires the land via eminent domain.
After years of beating the same (hopefully not dead) horse, there’s little to say aside from “where’s our park?”
And that was, indeed, the rallying cry at yesterday’s meeting.
Here are a few more versions of this from yesterday’s demonstration.
“On this date, there was a huge warehouse fire that would not be put out. Today, there is also a fire that will not be put out in any of us.” Kim Fraser, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park
“It is very important that we keep our word as a city, very important that we keep our word as a government, and very important that we keep our word as a community to one another. Because that means something — a commitment means something. So we need to continue to fight for this, we need to continue to remind our city and our mayor, respectfully, that this is something they committed to.” Councilman Stephen Levin
“I want to point out that this park is not a gift. It was a negotiated trade. It was a contract. It was a contract between the community and the city of New York. And this contract said, ‘you vote and support upzoning on the waterfront, and we will give you this park.’ It was a hard and fast agreement in exchange for the rezoning that has led to massive density and population increases. And if they do not follow through on this agreement, they’re telling communities all over the city that their word is worthless. That they cannot be believed or trusted.” State Rep. Carolyn Maloney
“Open space is as much of a [deciding factor] for people I know as to whether they can make a life here [as schools and property taxes]. It’s not a luxury we’re asking for. This is not a little cherry on top. This is part of what any person who ever thinks about the life and death of cities knows is a necessity when a city grows and changes.” State Senator Daniel Squadron
“A lot of people believe this is all about money. And I guess it is all about money, because either the Bloomberg administration or the de Blasio administration has said ‘we’re not gonna spend the money that’s necessary in order to give us a park.’…We’re not responsible for the cost of this park. This park could have been bought for pennies compared to what it costs today. The East River Park was purchased for $10 million. This park could have been purchased for less than $10 million back in 2005.” Assemblyman Joe Lentol