Proponents of Bushwick Inlet Park triumphant as final piece falls into place
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
December 19, 2016
Political Leaders Join Neighborhood Activists and Property Owners to Announce Way Forward for Waterfront Park
By Andy Katz
A promise longstanding from City Hall to the residents of Greenpoint and Williamsburg was finally fulfilled as Mayor Bill de Blasio joined other elected officials, business leaders and neighborhood activists on Saturday to formally announce the purchase of an 11-acre parcel that comprised the final piece of a waterfront puzzle that will become the long-awaited Bushwick Inlet Park.
“We have all of our park now!” Ward Dennis, an urban preservationist and Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) board member, announced to thunderous applause and cheers from a group that included City Councilmember Stevin Levin, state Sens. Daniel Squadron and Martin Dilan, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, state Assemblymember Joe Lentol, District Leader Nick Rizzo, Citi Storage owners Norm and Elaine Brodsky, as well as board members from Friends of the Bushwick Inlet Park, Open Space Alliance, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and Borough President Eric Adams.
“What you did today proves there is another way forward,” de Blasio told the group. “There’s an equitable way forward, there’s a people’s way forward, there’s a community and neighborhood way forward.”
In 2005, over the objections of Community Board 1, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s City Hall adopted an inclusionary housing program to construct high-rise apartments along much of the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront, effectively restricting access to the banks of the East River to people affluent enough to afford the steep market rates these units would command.
As a sweetener, space was set aside for a waterfront park open to all North Brooklyn residents.
“No matter if you are a banker on Wall Street,” said Adams, “or you clean the toilets on Wall Street, you have a right to be in Bushwick Inlet Park!”
Since 2005 the city had obtained most of the land needed to build the 27-acre park, portions of which were already completed, including a soccer field and the 15,500-square-foot community center where the day’s rally and press conference were being held. One parcel, an 11-acre site owned by the Brodskys that contained a Citi Storage warehouse, remained outstanding. The city was stymied in efforts to acquire the land by a fundamental disagreement over its value.
An initial offer of $100 million was rejected by Norm Brodsky, who asked instead for the current market rate, which he claimed was $345 million. But that rate reflected the land’s rezoned value, which itself was dependent on the park as part of the total package. For several years Brodsky, the city and neighborhood activists were caught up in this paradoxical disagreement, to the point where some proposed the city initiate eminent domain proceedings against Brodsky and Citi Storage.
Adams led Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park on a July 9, 2016 campout to urge both sides to act before the latest offer deadline passed.
Finally, on Nov. 21, Brodsky accepted the city’s offer of $160 million and the final impediment to a full, 27-acre waterfront park disappeared.
“I’m happy it will become a park,” said Brodsky, who had already built what he claimed to be North Brooklyn’s only regulation bocce court on the site. “As long as the city pays a reasonable rate.”
Indeed, Brodsky, who had become something a bête noire for park activists, was thanked by the mayor and most of the other speakers during the formal announcement. Asked whether he had received any thank you notes from Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park or the Open Space Alliance, Brodsky nodded: “Yes, a few.”
A master plan proposed by the Bloomberg administration for the eventual completed park can be viewed on the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation website. Much of the land will require remediation from industrial contaminants before completion of the park’s final structures can get underway. But at long last, the course has been cleared.
Asked whether or not the final configuration of Bushwick Inlet Park would allow for Brodsky’s bocce court, Dennis offered a relaxed, happy smile.
“It just might,” he said.