Carolee Fink, senior policy advisor to Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, said she is committed to following through with the master plan for the parks, but because of budget cuts and issues with the MTA could not ensure the projects would be completed by the end of the Bloomberg administration.
“I can understand the community frustration,” Fink said. “I can’t tell you why it's taken so long. There were budget cuts, successive budget cuts. I can say we are committed to everything that we’ve said we do.”
In the 2005 rezoning of the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront — two miles of shoreline from North Third Street to Manhattan Avenue — the Bloomberg administration promised over 30 acres of open space and parkland in exchange for a rush of private development in the area.
Seven years later, the condos have been built, but the parks on the waterfront, including the Bushwick Inlet Park and the parkland at 65 Commercial Street, have stalled.
So far, a soccer field has been built at the southern tip of Bushwick Inlet Park and 860 units of affordable housing units have been completed, a far cry from the 3,548 units that was also a part of the rezoning deal.
“65 Commercial Street is a debacle,” said Councilman Stephen Levin as he questioned city officials. “There is no acquisition involved or relocation of the MTA trucks. How can you defend this?”
Council members Diana Reyna and Brad Lander also questions city officials.
The status of the Bushwick Inlet Park remains far from complete. The city has yet to acquire half of the site from CitiStorage. The company, in recent negotiations, asked the city for $175 million for the site, a much higher value than assessed during the rezoning.
“We don‘t have a bottomless pit of funding to throw at this,” said Joshua Laird of the Parks Department. “The city is obligated to get a fair and reasonable deal. We are willing to reengage, though the last negotiations have not been promising.”
At 65 Commercial Street, park development has also languished. At the site sits the MTA garage depot for emergency vehicles. The MTA refused to move the trucks under the Williamsburg Bridge as agreed to previously, and no alternative site has been named.
During the hearing, city officials did show slides of the completed McCarren Park Pool, the waterfront esplanades, and the construction of Transmitter Park. Those projects, however, were not a part of the master plan and the 2005 rezoning.
In response to the city's failure to fulfill its commitments of the 2005 rezoning, Levin brought residents to City Hall to express their outrage before the hearing.
Residents are angry because their families do not have parks for their children to play in or the open space needed to accommodate the influx of residents that have moved to the neighborhood in recent years.
“We bought a house in part because of the promised open space and parkland, the 28-acre Bushwick Inlet is just blocks from our house,” said Greenpoint resident Laura Meyers. “It seems we have been cheated. A promise is a promise.”
Some said the parks issue in North Brooklyn raised larger important questions of the Bloomberg administration, which will leave office in 18 months. Waterfront projects could be left in the hands of whoever becomes the next mayor.
“This is about the credibility of this administration, if they fail to live up to their commitments,” Levin said.