Along the waterfront of Greenpoint and Williamsburg lies land ready to be put to the purpose. The question in 2005 was what the purpose would be. As many stories go, the powers that be and the community had differing opinions on the best use of the waterfront.
The Fight Begins
(Photo Credit: http://osanb.org)
Over ten years ago, the City of New York overrode the local Community Board’s vote against rezoning the land. This decision would mean catastrophe for the areas around the waterfront. When land can be developed for residential or commercial purposes, infrastructure alway has to be considered. If you take a look at the population of Brooklyn about its open land, the infrastructure has little room to adjust. Unfortunately, the City of New York had little consideration for this. While a park was promised during this time, without the diligence and tenacity of the community, it would never have come to fruition.
Many community leaders and members saw this rezoning as a threat to the neighborhoods, businesses, and families they had worked so hard to develop and nurture in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area.
What would follow this initial fear would be years of fighting back against the possibility of new buildings along the waterfront.
It’s a benevolent cause, to demand a park in place of new residences or commercial buildings. In today’s society, it is very rare that the option of open space wins out over profitable buildings and businesses.
Luckily, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park (FBIP) was ready to fight the good fight. After 12+ years of making their voices heard through various channels, the community is finally getting their park.
“Relentless pressure,” a representative for FBIP, Steve Chesler laments, was the key factor to making sure this park became a reality.
In a recent interview with us, Chesler lead us through the stages that it took to achieve the solidarity of the waterfront becoming the park the community desperately desired. The most important of which was a well thought-out plan.
Let’s review the benefits of the building of the park:
- First and foremost, to foster community.
- To create waterfront accessibility; to have a safe and meaningful interaction with the East River.
- Develop recreational options that span communities both in physical distance and different populations/ages/interests.
- Bring the character of the neighborhoods to the forefront; demonstrate the depth of heritage and diversity of culture to a public area to unite.
These goals were integral in keeping FBIP invigorated and focused on making the park a reality. Many tactics were used to constantly reinforce the importances of these benefits for the area. Rallies, speaking out on social media, attending community board meetings and department of city planning meetings kept the group in the faces of the City.
So after all the years of hard work, what is it like to reach the success of the promised park? Chesler spoke about the moment he heard the decision, “Blown away, ecstatic, just sensed that things were moving closer and closer through our elected officials, though it was still precarious, fragile, but I was walking on air.”
Even with the promise of the park on the horizon, there is still much to consider. True to nature, FBIP intends to stay on top of City officials to ensure that the production of the park stays on track.
While there is no set timeline, Chesler says they will be looking at about 3-4 years as different pieces of the land open up. Some concerns regard the safety of the area, as Bayside contains tanks that will need to be tested for contamination, as well as an area known as Motiva, and awaiting a lease of City Storage to expire in 1-3 years.
(Photo Credit: Bob Gus Kind)
“Keep holding the city accountable”, Chesler says is the main goal over the upcoming years as the park develops. There is so much potential in the area opening up, Chesler goes on to anticipate connections and collaborations to create an educational section of the park, to have the community better understand the ecosystem and restoration of the area.
Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park will oversee the land with integration and help of other groups to ensure that the park reaches and maintains its full potential. Currently, brainstorming is kicking in on how to include places that exist there currently, such as the soccer fields. It is promised to be a beautiful and sprawling area full of recreational options for everyone.
With so much hope on the docket, Chesler speaks about how other communities and groups can stay focused for the ideas they are fighting for, “To organize, but to have very clear, determined goals in mind to work towards; create smaller goals in terms of actions and what kind of outcomes you want, and then divvy up that work according to people’s expertise and relations that they have with certain people, and whose good at video, who’s your social media person, who’s your writer, your orator, and then just go with it.”
(Photo Credit: Brooklyn Paper)
The creation of the park along the Greenpoint/Williamsburg is a massive success for the community that so desperately needs it in order to further foster community. For the City as a whole, we will be able to enjoy more open land to interact with the East River, which we are so lucky to have access to. Amidst our tall buildings and concrete, it is a refreshing and positive outcome to have this park come into fruition. Great congratulations, admiration, and gratitude to Steve Chesler and all of those associated with Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park.