A large and enthusiastic group of local parks advocates packed the Brooklyn Brewery Monday night for a community meeting hosted by the North Brooklyn Open Space Alliance, the non-profit whose work supplements the Parks Department in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
At issue were the many parks projects in store in an area historically starved for open space that is approaching a watershed moment.
The biggest of these projects is the $50 million renovation of McCarren Park Pool, the New Deal-era pool that hasn’t functioned as such since 1984. In addition to making the pool functional, plans include converting the pool into an ice rink in the winter, as well as building a recreation center and restaurant. The renovation is scheduled to be finished in 2011.
Stephanie Thayer, OSA’s executive director who also serves as the Parks Department’s administrator for North Brooklyn, allayed concerns of area residents fearful that the troubled economy might jeopardize the renovation.
“This is one of a handful of absolute top priority projects, as per Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg,” said Thayer. She added, “Shovels are already in the ground” as of September.
There are other, more modest projects in McCarren’s future. The skate park between Bayard and Lorimer streets that is currently under construction should be finished by next summer. And officials are preliminarily looking into the possibility of converting Union Avenue, Lorimer Street and Driggs Avenue – streets that currently run through the park – into full-fledged parkland by “greening” them over.
Moving around the area, Assemblymember Joseph Lentol has allocated money to refurbish the dog-runs in both McCarren Park and Greenpoint’s McGolrick Park.
Also, construction of a multi-purpose synthetic field, the first phase of the proposed 28-acre Bushwick Inlet Park, will begin next year and will be between N. 9th and 10th streets.
Another parcel envisioned in Bushwick Inlet Park – this one between N. 11th and 12th Streets – is currently occupied by a closed Department of Sanitation garage. At Monday’s meeting, Thayer announced that demolition on the garage will begin in December, though the parcel must undergo years of environmental testing and remediation before construction of parkland begins.
Thayer also announced that the promenade and pier at Northside Piers, one of the new luxury developments springing up along the waterfront, will open to the public this November. As part of the 2005 Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning, waterfront developers were required to build a continuous, publicly accessible esplanade on the water-side of their properties. The opening of Northside Piers will be the first of these developments to open its portion of the esplanade.
In Greenpoint, plans for the proposed WNYC Transmitter Park at the end of Greenpoint Avenue were approved by Community Board 1 last month, though construction remains a long way away. The park is envisioned as a passive recreational park with nature habitats, benches, and a café.
Also in Greenpoint, progress continues toward converting the unsightly western end of India Street into a green-space with benches and a water view.
But with all the new projects came new anxieties. One of the objectives of Monday’s meeting was airing these concerns.
Susan Albrecht, an OSA board member, said one of her concerns was “actualizing Bushwick-Inlet Park,” something that will require putting pressure on city officials, hoping to hold them to prior promises during what might be a prolonged budget crunch in the near future.
Other neighborhood residents, fearful of broken promises in tough financial times, echoed this sentiment.
The list of concerns and priorities was vast and varied. Some wanted to see improvements in the shoddy plumbing in the area’s parks, while another neighborhood resident wanted the tennis courts to be lit at night.
Another resident, believing the scruffiness of McCarren Park’s grass lent the park a second-class feel, said he wants sod in some portions in the park. Another resident suggested moving the Greenmarket to the pavement from a grassy area to avoid killing the grass.
According to Thayer, the meeting, though preliminary, was a success.
“It was very worthwhile for us to hear the concerns of the community. And it was great to see the veteran parks activists as well as the younger members of the community working together,” she said.
Thayer said she wants much more community input before OSA homes in on a finite list of priorities for fundraising and action. Currently, OSA has around $50,000 in its coffers.
In the coming months, Thayer plans to host meetings in both the Latino and Hasidic portions of Southside Williamsburg. But she said all community residents are welcome.