With the CitiStorage fire under control, residents are planning a massive rallying effort to renew the call on the city to honor its commitment of providing park space along the entire Williamsburg waterfront.
On Thursday, dozens of residents made their way to the Open Space Alliance’s monthly meeting, at El Puente in South Williamsburg, to learn the history of the CitiStorage property and the 2005 rezoning and to discuss available options in regards to the future of the property.
Quickly, a consensus grew that a community-wide call-to-action was needed to encourage the city to purchase the land and to go forward with the promised construction of Bushwick Inlet Park.
The goal: 500 people marching on the steps of City Hall to let the mayor know that North Brooklynites mean business. The message: a decade is too long to wait for the city to make good on its promises.
“The only way we are going to get this park is if this community rises up against what’s happening,” said Adam Perlmutter, Chairman of the Open Space Alliance.
The city promised the park to the community during the 2005 rezoning that led to North Brooklyn’s industrial space being converted to residential. A decade later, real estate developers have their increased density, reduced taxes and other perks, while the community waits for its park space – North Brooklyn ranks among the lowest NYC neighborhoods in per capita outdoor space, and affordable housing – much of which is yet to be built.
At the time of the rezoning, the city, using eminent domain, had reached an agreement to purchase the property from its owner, Norm Brodsky, but later backed out, citing a lack of funds.
Residents say the city can no longer shirk its responsibilities. With the help of local electeds, they are hoping to once and for all push the city to claim the land.
“If 500 of us March on City Hall and show them that we are being boxed in by tall skyscrapers and don’t have any trees we could really make a difference,” said Rich Mazur, the Director of North Brooklyn Development Corp. “This need not be about the specifics of the Park but it’s about putting pressure on the city to give us what they promised.”
With the renewed attention to the property following the January 31 fire, residents are concerned that a developer may come in and snag the property before the city acts, which could relegate the park promise even further down the priority list.
Current zoning law prevents the CitiStorage land from being developed for residential use, but it can be used for a commercial space, such as a wholesale warehouse, like Costco.
But, the zoning regulations also mean that the property must be valued at the best use price – meaning the price should be on par with the value of properties surrounding the land. Since most of the structures surrounding Bushwick Inlet are newly developed, residential skyscrapers, the CitiStorage lot could be worth as much as $200 million, according to estimates.
On Monday, in a follow-up to Thursday’s meeting, about 50 residents gathered at Dirck the Norseman for the first in a series of planning events to refine the message the group hopes to communicate to the city and to raise the call to the community for action.
Those present divided the responsibilities of creating fliers, creating informational sheets on the history of the property, organizing buses to transport people to City Hall.
“The energy was great and what’s happened has really fueled the efforts for the Park,” said Cory Kantin, a member of the Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, who was present at the meeting. “I haven’t seen this kind of energy around the Park before and we have a unique opportunity to get the community’s voice heard.”
Organizers are hoping to get 500 people to rally outside City Hall on March 12, at 1p.m., for more information and to take part in organizational efforts visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-Bushwick-Inlet-Park/62106567605?fref=ts