On Monday night, the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn (OSA) hosted its quarterly Community Committee—or Comm-Comm—in an empty music venue in East Williamsburg. At the Town Hall meeting, representatives from the diverse groups interested in North Brooklyn’s park spaces gather to make connections and trade ideas.
The Open Space Alliance is a parks conservancy born out of the struggle to make the Bushwick Inlet Park a reality, and today it serves over 100 green spaces within Community Board District 1—a larger scope than most park conservancies in the city, and one that presents certain challenges.
“OSA represents the largest amount of green spaces in the city, but its budget is among the smallest,” said Ed Janoff, Executive Director at OSA. OSA’s total yearly revenues amount to some $600,000, while most of the conservancies that represent single, bigger parks like Central Park or the High Line operate with multi-million dollar budgets, Janoff said.
“We are a young organization,” Janoff told the Greenpoint Gazette. “Other conservancies have been around for 40 or 50 years. Ours is different too because it came out of a broad community organization effort,” namely, the campaign for Bushwick Inlet Park. “We need to represent the whole community. It’s an unproven model, and we have a long way to go.”
Anusha Venkataraman, Chair of OSA’s Community Committee, said that the strength of OSA’s community-wide approach to parks conservancy is that it allows the organization to shed light on smaller, neglected green spaces in overlooked neighborhoods.
“The question is how do we distribute resources equitably?” Venkataraman told the Greenpoint Gazette. “Usually, wealth accumulates in wealthier neighborhoods. We are trying to challenge that.”
Attendees at the Community Committee included representatives from the offices of Councilmembers Steve Levin and Antonio Reynoso, community organization El Puente, and the Partnerships for Parks program, as well as community members with their own concerns.
Among these were dog-friendly park areas, more restrooms and water fountains, and recycling bins. Several participants wished the parks would be more heavily staffed, with an increased presence of security guards, groundskeepers and gardeners.
Apart from the challenge of representing such a large and diverse area, Janoff said OSA needs to increase participation at the Community Committees. “There are 150,000 people in this district, and only 25 people showed up,” he said.