Six years and counting. That’s how long Greenpoint has been waiting for the MTA to make good on their 2005 promise to convert their parking lot at 65 Commercial Street into park space. The promise, made during the 2005 rezoning, would have the MTA turn over the lot to the city, provided the city find the MTA an alternative site for the buses and Access-a-Ride vehicles currently parked at the site. To date, the city has offered seven alternatives to the MTA in Queens and Brooklyn. The MTA, however, remains parked on our park.
In an effort to keep pressure on the MTA, on February 15th, District Leader Lincoln Restler, eviction notice in hand, held a rally at the site. Community leaders and residents turned out to remind the MTA of their unfulfilled promise to the community. “The community of Greenpoint will not tolerate the MTA’s ongoing disregard for the urgent lack of park space in our neighborhood,” said Restler. “We demand the MTA live up to its promise to vacate.”
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez sent a message from Washington D.C. “The MTA has failed to keep its promise to Greenpoint. I proudly stand with the Greenpoint community which so desperately needs and deserves the park space to which it is entitled.” Her representative at the rally, Evelyn Cruz added, “It’s a shame the MTA doesn’t get the message from the Greenpoint community.”
From Albany, Assemblyman Joe Lentol said “Over the past six years I have been involved in meetings, press conferences, letter writing campaigns, petitions, protests, street theater and then more meetings and press conferences for this park. This park was promised to this community: it is owed to us. It is time for the MTA to get out and for us to fight other battles.” Amy Cleary representing Lentol at the rally added “We shouldn’t still be fighting this battle,” echoing the sentiments of the entire community.
Councilmember Steve Levin has been trying to convince the MTA to honor their commitment, once and for all. In a January 28, 2011, letter Levin called on MTA Chairman Jay Walder to see the MTA’s promise through. “The Points of Agreement that accompanied the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning of 2005 enumerated a list of promises that were made to the community by the Bloomberg administration…One of the main open space promises was that the lot at 65 Commercial Street…would be turned into a waterfront park. In order for this to happen the City agreed to find an alternative site for the MTA for these two uses…The City has presented the MTA with seven possible relocation sites shortly after the rezoning, however none were deemed viable [by the MTA].”
“The Williamsburg-Greenpoint community has been forced to wait far too long for construction to begin on this park. Discussions with the Administration and the MTA are on-going and I expect to see significant progress in the near future,” added Levin.
In response, the MTA released the following statement: “The site at 65 Commercial Street serves as a depot for Access-a-Ride vehicles and New York City Transit’s Emergency Response Unit. We agree that these facilities do not require waterfront views, and we plan to vacate the site as soon as appropriate replacement sites are available and ready to be occupied. We are pleased to be actively moving forward on two viable sites. Specifically, we are reconsidering a vacant City-owned site in Maspeth for use as an Access-a-Ride depot. We are optimistic that a replacement facility can be built there once environmental issues are resolved. Regarding the Emergency Response Unit, we are in talks with the Mayor’s Office about relocating to a site beneath the Williamsburg Bridge, and that process is even further along.”
“Six years ago, the MTA made a promise to this community to pass this land off as park space and six years later, we are here, looking at a parking lot,” concluded Restler. “It’s time for the MTA to deliver.”