Brooklyn (NY) waterfront site to be new state park

NEW YORK: Throughout New York City, residents are making their way to the water-at least they’re trying to. The vast majority of communities have little or no access to the city’s 528 miles of waterfront. Residents in Williamsburg, Brooklyn have been working long and hard to change this in their community and their efforts have paid off.

Today, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced the purchase of 262,000 square feet or two city blocks in Williamsburg, including 400 feet of frontage on the East River. The land is will be developed as New York’s 160th state park through a partnership between the State of New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and New York University.

“A new waterfront park for Brooklyn will breathe new life into the community and surrounding neighborhoods, providing open space for residents to enjoy and much needed playing fields for university students’ outdoor athletic activities,” said Governor Pataki in a statement.

“The community has been pushing for a park on this site for years,” said Erik Kulleseid, project manager for the Trust for Public Land, who negotiated the agreement. “Because of the vision and dedication of Williamsburg residents and Governor Pataki’s commitment to land conservation, another precious patch of New York City’s waterfront will now be available for all to enjoy.”

The former Eastern District Terminal site is located between North 7th and North 9th streets, directly across from Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan. The site offers magnificent views of the skyline and has long been desired by the community for a park. The site, formerly a rail-to-barge transportation hub, has been lying unused for decades. Up and down the Williamsburg waterfront, abandoned industrial properties line the river, cutting off public access. Even in its abandoned, fenced-in condition, this prime riverfront property is heavily used by people from the community who are eager to use any patch of space open along the water.

“On any sunny day and every weekend, you can see dozens of people fishing, sunbathing, riding bikes and walking dogs-all enjoying this prime location,” said Kulleseid.

The Trust for Public Land, a national, non-profit land conservation organization, will own the land until the State of New York takes title. The State will then lease the land to NYU under a cooperative arrangement calling for the university to develop and maintain practice and playing fields to be used by the university, the local community and the general public. The rest of the proposed park to be developed by the State and maintained by NYU, including the waterfront and piers, would be open to the public at all times.

“I commend Governor Pataki for his outstanding leadership on this project and acknowledge the efforts of the Trust for Public Land, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, as well as the Williamsburg community, for working together to make this project a reality,” said NYU president Dr. L. Jay Oliva. “This is an extremely happy day for NYU. We have not had athletic fields of our own since the 1970s. While academics will always come first at NYU, this historic partnership will make it possible for us to have the kind of athletic program that our students deserve, and for the community to have important new recreational opportunities.”

In addition to making their voices heard by local and state elected officials regarding their desire to see the site developed as a park, area residents also did what they could to make the site more desirable by removing illegally dumped garbage, creating barricades to prevent future dumping, and planting flowers and trees.

“The Trust for Public Land’s purchase of a portion of the old Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal site on behalf of the state finally ends years of abuse and neglect of the northside waterfront. Development of the site as a state park will provide much needed open space and waterfront access for the entire Williamsburg/Greenpoint community,” said Peter Gillespie, lead organizer for Neighbors Against Garbage, a Williamsburg-based community organization that has long supported the effort to develop a park on the land.

The purchase by the State will mark the first time that Clean Air/Clean Water Bond Act funds have been used to acquire land in New York City since the Act was passed in 1996. The property was identified for acquisition as an “Inner City/Underserved Community Park,” in the 1998 Open Space Conservation Plan and is another example of the Governor’s commitment to providing increased waterfront access and recreational opportunities in New York City.Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for public use and enjoyment. To date, TPL has worked to protect more than 1.2 million acres nationwide, valued at more than $2 billion. TPL has helped protect more than 55,000 acres in New York State since 1981.