The community organization Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park has been fighting for green space in North Brooklyn since 2005. That year, the City rezoned Greenpoint and Williamsburg, leading to frenzied development in both neighborhoods. At the time of the Rezoning, the City promised to compensate North Brooklyn by adding park space to the neighborhood, with 27-acre Bushwick Inlet Park being the most prominent among the green parcels. But, 13 years later, residents are still waiting for that park space, and local advocacy groups like Open Space Alliance, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning, and of course, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, have been fighting from that time til this to hold the City accountable.
The 2005 Greenpoint-Williamsburg Open Space Master Plan outlined 6 goals for Park Space in North Brooklyn:
Goal 1: Create a publicly accessible waterfront
Goal 2: Create a balance between active and passive recreation opportunities to serve the diverse recreation needs of the community
Goal 3: Identify appropriate opportunities for direct interaction with the river, such as boating
Goal 4: Promote a healthy east river environment through sustainable design practices, habitat enhancement, and public education
Goal 5: Develop design guidelines to unify the waterfront as a whole, while encouraging the creation of unique, memorable spaces on an individual basis
Goal 6: Reflect the rich character, heritage and culture of the community in both publicly and privately developed open spaces.
Neighborhood advocates had enormous success working toward those goals in 2017: In April, Mayor de Blasio closed on all 27 acres of parkland, ensuring that Bushwick Inlet Park will be a reality; in October, the Mayor pledged an additional $17.5 million in funding to develop the park, and over the summer, the City finished remediating the 50 Kent parcel of parkland. Following those spectacular strides, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park hopes to take advocacy “to the next level” in 2018, pushing the City, the Parks Department, and other involved stakeholders to remediate, design and develop the rest of the park with community input, in a way that adheres to the principles of the original Master Plan.
Concretely, that means planning! NYC Parks itself will begin holding planning hearing this year as it gears up to develop the park, and Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park will begin “a series of monthly community seminars on the history of BIP’s planning and current trends in park, waterfront and open space design.” Any interested community members are welcome to attend!
The first seminar, “Envisioning Bushwick Inlet Park: A 21st Century Park for Greenpoint and Williamsburg” takes place at Bushwick Inlet Park (86 Kent Avenue) Wednesday, January 24th @ 7pm.
Donna Walcavage, the landscape an urban design architect who worked on the 2005 Master Plan, Christine Holowacz, Former Chair of Greenpoint/Williamsburg Alliance of Parks and Planning (GWAPP) and co-chair of the Parks and Open Space Subcommittee of CB1’s Rezoning Committee, and Laura Hoffman, co-chair of the Parks and Open Space Subcommittee of CB1’s Rezoning Committee, will lead the seminar.
Steve Chesler, of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park explains that hopefully the seminars will give community members a place to share their ideas for the park, and help give the community a “design vocabulary” for envisioning the park.
We can also expect a forward-looking park design. Steve points out that other green spaces around the city, like Governor’s Island and Brooklyn Bridge Park have “pushed the envelope” in terms of park design, so Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park will push for a similar level of innovation at Bushwick Inlet Park.
As design gets underway, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park is committed to holding the city accountable to the standards of the original Master Plan, and to environmental standards that have evolved since the plan was made. Steve says issues surrounding climate change “changed the game” when it comes to waterfront planning, and that means that it’s more important than ever for advocates to make sure that the City restores, and helps care for, natural elements within the park such as wetlands.
While this park sounds pretty spectacular, and we know it will be, groundbreaking is still a ways off. Steve offered a very rough estimate of 2-3 years before development begins on the 50 Kent parcel of parkland. The Motiva parcel may take another 2 years beyond that, and its unclear when development will begin at the Bayside and CitiStorage sites, though the City has begun testing and sampling the area.
In the meantime, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park wants to partner with the Parks Department to create interim community programming at 50 Kent.
Finally, if you’d like to be involved in the planning and advocacy process, there are lots of ways for you to jump in. You can sign up here to volunteer at the park during events. You can swing by the seminars to learn, and share your ideas. If you have expertise in media, programming, finance, litigation, or related fields, Friends of Buswick Inlet Park would love to have you on board.
Here’s to a great park for a great community!