They put it in park.
The Department of Parks and Recreation postponed a controversial plan to revamp a section of Fort Greene Park until September after locals and pols demanded the community board delay voting on the proposal until more people, particularly those in nearby public housing complexes, can offer their suggestions — a move that will hopefully result in a plan that works for everyone, said residents who fought for more community engagement in the process.
“We hope to have an authentic process where people, especially the public housing residents, have a real honest chance to talk about this plaza,” said Fort Greene resident Sandy Reiburn. “I feel like this is an exception to the rule as far as the community having a real buy-in with the community board — it’s a rare, but I’m grateful for it.”
The parks department presented a final makeover plan to Community Board 2’s Parks Committee on June 19, which included re-designing the current entry at Myrtle Avenue and St. Edwards Street into a grand entrance with a water feature, cutting down some trees, resurfacing the basketball courts, fixing the sidewalks, and adding more lighting.
But the agenda for the meeting was released just four days prior, leaving many area residents — such as those in the Walt Whitman Houses whose monthly Tenants Association meeting was on the same night — unable to adjust their schedules to attend the vote.
The committee approved the $10.5 million plan by a vote of 5–0 with one abstention, despite demands from locals and Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Fort Greene) to postpone the decision until more community members could see the proposal and offer their two cents.
And on Monday night, residents and pols showed up en masse with signs reading “Stop the vote” and called for the Executive Committee — who makes the final decisions while the board is out for summer — to delay reaching a verdict.
“I respectfully request that we would like more time before your vote to have an opportunity to weigh in,” said state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Fort Greene). “I would like you to be able to hear from the community what their concerns are.”
Parks Commissioner Marty Maher warned locals that the project’s price tag could go up due to inflation if it was pushed back any longer, but the pols told him they were convinced a few months would not result in skyrocketing costs.
The parks department will now conduct more outreach on the plan over the summer — although it did not specify where — and return to the community board in September for another vote, according to a rep.
“We’ll continue engagement this summer as we talk to our neighbors about the plan for Fort Greene Park,” said spokeswoman Maeri Ferguson.