When I helped to organize the first Where's My Park protest with NAG in 2009, I was building off of the work of neighbors who had been advocating for open space in that area since at least the 1990s.
One of the great desires of the community was waterfront access. There had always been some waterfront access that was created by climbing under fences towards areas that were technically off-limits.
But there had been little in the way of safe, beautiful park space that was open and free. The struggle for this land and how it should be used in its post-industrial lifespan has been absolutely fraught, so much so that the fight for the park is analyzed in a great book called "Accidental Playground."
It has taken an incredible amount of organizing, open discussion, public meetings, legal strategy, and more to get to the point where the park was even an actual thing.
It took lobbying the government during the 2005 rezoning to have it embedded as a community giveback written into a restrictive declaration. Then it took over a decade of holding the city accountable time and again to the promise that they made.
It has been a total mess of work, mostly done by neighborhood organizations who forced meetings with elected officials time and again, rallied, advocated, and worked.
The Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park persisted, knowing full well that their own enjoyment of the space would be far off in the future.
They are the folks involved in the advocacy for this park, and the clearing of the legacy of toxic waste and other hazards that have caused the people of our community to suffer major health impacts.
We will work to fix the toxic ground, we will continue to hold the city, the state and industry accountable for what they did to this neighborhood in the past and present.
But for now we can take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief. Our waterfront is beautiful.
It has hosted garbage dumps, it has hosted sludge, it has hosted gas and petroleum, but more than anything it has hosted people who worked in this community and for this community, and I'm excited to watch the space slowly returning to the community's hands in a way that does not oppress or hazard, but rather relax and inspire.