An overflow crowd of over 300 people of all ages descended on the plaza in front of City Hall on Thursday, calling for the city to purchase the land occupied by the recently burned down CitiStorage warehouse in Williamsburg and turn it into an expanded Bushwick Inlet Park that would stretch over the border into Greenpoint. Advocates have been calling for this for about a decade, ever since the lot was designated as parkland during a 2005 rezoning, but the fire has created new urgency as developers are now circling like vultures.
The chants included "Where's our park?" "A promise was made… The park must be saved," "A promise is a promise," and "Flowers, not towers." One sign had an alternate version, saying "Flower power, not sour towers." The crowd even sang "This Land is Your Land" with a special verse:
From the quiet inlet, to the rushing river
We were promised a park here, it's time to deliver
Instead of towers, there should be flowers
This land was made for you and me.
Thursday's event was organized by City Councilman Stephen Levin, who said that the city should be held to its promise of mitigating the effects of the 2005 Brooklyn waterfront rezoning with park space. Though five acres of Bushwick Inlet Park was built, the full 28-acre park has yet to materialize. Advocates demand a park stretching basically from Kent Avenue/Franklin Street to the East River running from North 9th Street to around up to Quay Street. "Williamsburg and Greenpoint have demonstrated unparalleled tenacity in advocating for their community and together we will fight until the city delivers," Levin said.
Of course, the city would have to purchase the privately-owned land first. Developers have been eyeing it for years and, according to a report, recent offers have been for over $250 million.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, also in attendance, said that what is there now is nice, but it's not sufficient. "A promise is a promise," she said. "We need that green necklace." She said that if this opportunity is lost, it may be the last chance. She pointed out the lack of open space in Brooklyn. A sign said that while the city average amount of park space per person is 158 square feet, the Brooklyn average is 64 square feet and the Williamsburg-Greenpoint average is 26 square feet. Rep. Nydia Valezquez said she wasn't trying to stop development of the city, but parks have to come first.
"Greeenpoint has to be green, " said Assemblyman Joseph Lentol "We don't want Greenpoint to be glass. We want Greenpoint to have grass." "Government must live up to its promises," he added.
"This is not just a promise. This is a moral responsibility," said Luis Garden Acosta, Founder and President of the Brooklyn-based peace and justice advocacy organization El Puente, as a he referenced beautiful parks in other areas of Brooklyn and other boroughs. "It is human right to connect with our humanity and our nature."
Adam Perlmutter, chairman of the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn, pointed out that Mayor Bill de Blasio supported creation of this park back when he was in the City Council and said of his following through to creating it "This is a matter of character. This is a matter of moral imperative. This is a matter of integrity."
Also in attendance were other elected officials, members of the clergy, and other advocacy organizations including Neighbors Allied for Good Growth and New Yorkers for Parks.
The rally ended with everyone holding their signs up towards the mayor's office and chanting "Where's our park?"
—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 Bushwick Inlet Park coverage [Curbed]
· Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park [Official]