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Greenpointers Air Concerns About Waterfront Park On The Way

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The Parks Department has big plans for the Newtown Barge Park, where Dupont and Commercial streets meet, along the East River near the Newtown Creek. Parks, along with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, wants to turn the existing playground into a park over twice the size. Representatives from the Parks department and design firm Stantec presented the plan to Brooklyn Community Board 1's Waterfront Committee on Thursday and let's just say there were some concerns—on topics including the playing field, benches, loiterers, and dogs.

The plan is to double the current space from under one acre to 2.3 acres. There is currently a baseball field along with a basketball and handball court. The new park would have a Little League-sized artificial turf baseball field (which could also be used for soccer) with a 12-foot-tall fence around it for "ball containment," as well as trees, benches, walkways, and planters. The park, which would rise to a grade of 12 feet, would itself would also serve as a defense against flooding from storm surges. The plan is for minimal fencing, with short ones along the street. Martin Maher, Brooklyn Chief of Staff for the Parks Department, said he didn't want it to look "cage-y."

Then community members present were allowed to speak, and speak they did. The first concern raised was the ball field. Some complained about the turf. The presenters responded that turf is easier for using for multiple activities and doesn't take days or weeks to be usable after heavy rain. They added that soccer could be played in the rain.

Some present were concerned about the size. However, because the field is intended for youth events, it's the same size as the current ball field. An adult baseball field would extend into the water.

Despite the fence, others worried about people outside the field getting hit in the head by balls. Some wondered how many kids would actually play there. One person spoke up to say that the nearby youth fields are packed and this would be welcome. Still other attendees wondered about whether this would be a field open to use by anyone. The answer? It would be a permitted field, but when no one holds a permit to use it, anyone can, for any game, including frisbee. Others were upset about the loss of the handball and basketball courts. Parks says they will be implemented into the yet-to-be-designed Box Street Park nearby. Most of these answers didn't seem to satisfy the crowd at the meeting.

One member of the committee was concerned about this becoming a "hangout" and another person worried about kids picking up syringes. Parks said that if the community wants a closing time earlier than 1 a.m., it could work with them. The walkway along the water would remain open at all hours.

Some wondered about a dog run. Everybody seemed to like the idea of having one somewhere, but the presenters didn't seem to think there was room here.

Another concern was the benches and the fact that they would not be wood. They would be the plastic bench design from the 1964 World's Fair, which the presenters said are already used in many parks.

A great many people seemed to leave the room disappointed or upset by the proposal. It is not, however, final. The committee will reach out to the community and the Parks Department, which will return to this committee for its yet-to-be-scheduled next meeting before a resolution can be sent to the full board.

—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· All Greenpoint coverage [Curbed]