We’ve all seen the white banner strung up on the chain link fence around Bushwick Inlet. But seriously, where is it? On Thursday, March 22nd, local leaders and concerned residents from all five boroughs assembled to testify at the New York City Council budgetary hearing for Parks and Recreation.
“Promises were made to all the residents of our growing community and they should be kept,” testified Ryan Kuonen of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG).
The promises to which Kuonen referred are part of the bargain struck with Mayor Bloomberg preceding the 2005 Greenpoint-Williamsburg Rezoning. North Brooklyn, particularly along the East River, would be rezoned from a primarily industrial to neighborhood to a residential one. In exchange for the local upheaval caused by the shift, the City agreed to free up 33 acres of parkland in North Brooklyn (among many other promises, which have not been fulfilled). In 2007, $14 million was reportedly included in the City’s budget for a three acre park on Commercial Street. In 2010, $7.5 million was supposedly intended for a two acre addition to Barge Park Ballfield. Neither have been completed, nor even started. The most glaring omission of all? The 28 acre Bushwick Inlet Park.
Meanwhile, thousands of new residents that have poured into North Brooklyn are straining existing open spaces. “McCarren Park is overrun,” said Greenpoint resident Anne Rotella. “You can’t enjoy it.”
“If action is not taken soon, we fear we will never see our park materialize,” said Friends of Northside Waterfront member, Alexandra Broenniman.
Greenpoint’s chance to get even greener depends on a common bureaucratic process. Every year, the New York City Council has a budgetary dialogue with the Mayor. The Mayor submits a series of spending plans to the council for review. The Council then aggregates competing pleas from every borough and sector, suggesting a prioritized funding hierarchy to the Mayor. The budget hearing that took place on Thursday was a preliminary one, meaning the City Council will send the Mayor back a revised budget plan. The Mayor finalizes an Executive Budget by the end of April.
Many Greenpointers hope their parks are prioritized in 2013. For several years they have been told the promised parks are not afforded by budget austerity. “I do understand the recession we just went through,” said Greenpoint resident, Cory Katin. However, Katin maintained that a recession does not nullify the City’s obligation to uphold its end of the deal.
Seven years after the rezoning, the “Where’s Our Park?” banner is still unanswered.
“We don’t expect hot showers,” said one Greenpoint resident. “Just cut a hole in the fence.”
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