Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why Aren't There More Parks in Greenpoint?

Greenpoint started out forested, then became farmland. In 1775 exactly five families lived in Greenpoint and they all had really big yards.

By the late 1800s Greenpoint had evolved into a major manufacturing center. Most of the land which was not already used by factories was turned into housing for the ever growing population. By 1890 there were only a few farms left in Greenpoint. Perhaps for exactly that reason the City of Brooklyn began buying land to turn into public parks at that time.

Here is a quick rundown of the parks and playgrounds of Greenpoint:

Then CalledNow CalledBought InNotes
Winthrop ParkMsgr. McGolrick Park1889Brooklyn was not part of NYC at the time.
Greenpoint ParkMcCarren Park1903-1905The Greenpoint/Williamsburg boudary now runs through this park.
???Sgt. William Dougherty Playground1924Renamed in 1948. I could not find the original name anywhere.
Right Triangle PlaygroundGreenpoint Playground1925There was once a "Greenpoint Playground" in Greenpoint (nee McCarren) Park
Newtown Barge PlaygroundNewtown Barge Playground1942Yes, it opened during WW2.
American PlaygroundAmerican Playground1955Leased from the American Manufacturing Corporation from 1927-1955. Rent was $1 every three years!

There are also three small green spaces which are basically spruced up traffic islands. The oldest is Fidelity Triangle which dates all the way back to 1921. Next comes Father Studzinski Square (dedicated in 1989) which I propose should be renamed to Father Studzinski Right Triangle. The other is the Calyer Isosceles Triangle, which was renovated within the past few years as part of the Greenstreets program. As I mentioned previously there are also a few community gardens though the Lentol Garden is the only one at street level.

One trend which might not be apparent from the above chart is that in the last century each new green space has been smaller than the last. No parks large enough to play a game of catch have opened since the 1950s. Basically all of the new green spaces which have opened in Greenpoint recently have been carved out of nooks and crannies.

Of course if you are reading this you probably know about Transmitter Park and the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Waterfront Access Plan. For the rest of you here is a quick summary (the full master plan is here). Basically, in 2005 the City of New York rezoned a large chunk of industrial land along the waterfront for residential use. In addition to new buildings Greenpoint and Williamsburg were supposed to receive several new parks and a "green corridor" along the waterfront connecting new and existing parks.

As with many plans hatched during the mid-2000s the economy has thrown a spanner into the works. Some rather large residences have been built and some rather nice parks have opened. These are all in Williamsburg.

Who wants to play catch?
Not as much has happened in Greenpoint. Some land has been purchased or freed up in other ways, and of course a ferry terminal opened earlier this year. No parks have been built. Transmitter Park is underway but still very much under construction. We hope that it will be open soon, but there are no guarantees. At least one chunk of Waterfront Park in Williamsburg is literally a construction zone wrapped in fence and tarp with no timetable for completion (see right) so we're not going to assume anything.

So okay, the economy sucks and is not getting better all that quickly. Right now we cannot count on any plans which involve the city spending money on projects which, in all honesty, are quality of life projects. Paying for the construction of parks creates jobs in the short run but there are probably better uses for that money right now.

So for now what should we do? Do It Ourselves (DIY, because DIO is something else...). And so we are. We need permission from the city to get access to 59 Java St, but we will do all of the work. We will raise the funds, we will do the planting, we will put up a permanent fence, we will do the maintenance.

Postscript: I believe that in the long run the city should stick to the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Waterfront Access Plan. There are people pressuring the city on this issue. I agree with them.

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