Heroes of Bushwick Inlet Park: Part 2

Last week, we gave an introduction to some of the heroes behind Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park (FBIP) and the organization’s movement to realize our long-promised waterfront park. Here in Part 2 we learn about the other core members and their creative strategies that have kept the issue alive and progressing.

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Ward Dennis is a pillar of local stewardship and has been a member of FBIP from the start. Ward is a partner at a New York historic preservation consulting firm and has held various leadership roles in Community Board 1, including the Chair of Land Use, and is on the board of NAG. Thanks to Ward, FBIP was better able to strategically navigate the tricky world of zoning regulations and bureaucracy.

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It was Ward, along with Adam Perlmutter, who had the brilliant idea to jump on the City’s 2015 city-wide new zoning meetings and share the FBIP story in order to warn people against the city’s willingness to break promises. By systematically giving testimony at Community Boards, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council, city officials were repeatedly and directly forced to answer to the public.

Adam is the chairman of OSA, a defense attorney, and another expert and key strategist on land use issues. He led and helped to win the historic legal battle against the proposed power plant on the waterfront. Adam is a bulldog on the side of justice.

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In addition to Ward and Adam, core FBIP members Katherine and Steve (profiled last week) regularly gave testimony at these public meetings. But it is longtime community activist Kim Fraser who has become the go-to speaker at rallies and hearings, giving testimony in places like East NY, Brownsville, Prospect Heights, and Manhattan Beach. Kim’s husband Scott Fraser has been a key coalition builder helping to forge partnerships with supporting organizations & elected officials.

After 18 months of pressure from all of the described strategies, City Hall made an offer of $100,000,000 to Norm Brodsky for the remaining promised park-front property. But the offer has still not been accepted. Not the least among the heroes listed in this article are many of our local politicians, who have taken every action you could hope for, and then some, to support the cause.

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When Brodsky did not respond to the city’s offer, Borough President Eric Adams (pictured above left) had an idea to install a large public countdown clock on the fence of the property for the 60 days that the offer stood. Dozens of local leaders and community organizations came down to tear off a page per day. Eric also had the idea to host a campout during the halfway point of the 30 day offer. The epic event included food, music, a teach-in on the history of the waterfront and dance performances.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, (to the right of Eric above) had just spent the night organizing a sit-in on the floor of the US House of Representatives, in an effort to reform gun control. Even at the age of 70, and not feeling well, she showed up for the campout and spent the night in a tent with our heroes. That is the kind of dedication we hope for from our leaders.

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State Senator Daniel Squadron has been a major factor in this narrative of Greenpoint’s local heroes.  He’s a quality organizer and creative thinker, and authored two NY Daily News editorials about the BIP issue. With Joe Lentol, he created State eminent domain legislation authorizing the State to seize the CitiStorage property, sending an even stronger message to City Hall.

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Local NYC Council Member Stephen Levin has led the Community on the BIP issue since right after the fire: speaking at rallies, applying persistent pressure on the City, and holding fast to not upzoning the CitiStorage property (ensuring it is much less profitable for buyers).

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But still now, the city has not acquired the land. Stepping up to help broker negotiations is Assembly Member Joseph Lentol, who, not incidentally, was instrumental in sealing the deal between Norm Brodsky and the Governor for the acquisition of the East River State Park. He has served the community since 1972 and has a long history of fighting environmental injustice in this neighborhood – from the various proposals for noxious power plants and waste transfer stations along the waterfront to the Exxon oil spill where he brought together the US Coast Guard, the CDC and responsible companies to take the necessary steps to clean up. Lentol and Levin are regularly on the phone with Brodsky and the city now and Joe believes that Brodsky could close on a deal with a developer as soon as mid-October so it is more important than ever to keep up the pressure.

The production and execution of FBIP’s many creative strategies is highly collaborative, involving the core members described here and many more artists and citizen activists who offer their passionate input and presence in order to affect real change and to communicate the will of the community. Not to be missed, we want to shout out to local heroes Ed Raven, the owner of Greenpoint Beer and Ale, who is always happy to offer his venue for a cause; John Saponara, a key photo and video contributor; OSA staff Joe Mayock & Konstancja Maleszynska, whom we have written about separately; and State Senator Martin Dilan, Deputy Borough President (& former Williamsburg councilmember) Diana Reyna, Councilman Antonio Reynoso and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez who have all supported the cause.

It is only through the collaboration of so many community members, stepping up to be a hero, that we have exceeded all expectations thus far. And it is only with the additional help of locals like yourself that we will cross the finish line. The next and hopefully final meeting for FBIP is at Greenpoint Beer & Ale on Wednesday October 5th at 7pm. Come to meet the crew and learn about next steps!

In the meantime, FBIP offers the following concrete ways you can take action from their Get Involved Page:

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP MAKE THIS PARK A REALITY?

  • Join our mailing list.
  • Call 311 – Ask: Where’s Our Full Park? We’re missing 11 acres.
  • Write the Mayor: City Hall, NY, NY 10007
  • Attend our Planning & Organization Meetings.
  • Volunteer: we are looking for more staunch open space advocates who would like to lend their passion and skills to achieving our goal, to attend meetings, strategize, help with outreach, marketing and assist with actions and events. Contact us for more information and feel free to attend our regular meetings and events.
  • Check out all of our events.
  • Donate to the cause. All donations are 100% tax deductible. As an all volunteer organization all funds go to support material and direct costs related to our activities.

By Charlotte E Binns

By Romey Louangvilay