North Brooklyn Unites for Open Space
by Jeffrey Harmatz
Nov 06, 2008 | 1490 views | 0 0 comments | 54 54 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A meeting of the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn proved that what the neighborhood lacks in park space, it makes up for in community-minded residents who want to make the best of existing parks and create new ones where they can.

The nonprofit organization held an open planning meeting on Monday, during which members of the community helped board members set an agenda to determine how parks like McCarren, McGolrick, Bushwick Inlet, and others yet to be built could best serve the neighborhood.

Formed in 2002, the Open Space Alliance (OSA) seeks to be a parent organization to the many parks and community groups that have formed in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, as well as providing funding through public and private grants and donations that will fund programs, renovations, and general improvements.

The organization is based on the successful Prospect Park Alliance (PPA), which has transformed Prospect Park through the acquisition and dissemination of millions of dollars over the last 30 years.

Tupper Thomas, president of PPA, offered inspirational words and advice to the North Brooklyn residents that want to follow in her organization’s footsteps.

“When we started the PPA, the park was scary and no one went there,” she said. “It took a long time to get the park to the point that is now. We raised private money to do extra things at the park, and advocated for capital projects that the city funded.”

It is the PPA’s example that the OSA will follow, taking community input to set an agenda for the parks of North Brooklyn and then, with the support of the residents, finding the money to accomplish their goals.

At Monday’s meeting, OSA Executive Director Stephanie Thayer presented the group’s preliminary agenda, which includes the construction of several new parks including Bushwick Inlet Park, Transmitter Park, and an esplanade at the end of India Street.

Thayer announced that work has already begun on the renovation of McCarren Park Pool, with the stabilization of the historic archways and surveying already underway. When asked if the pool’s construction would be halted or slowed because of the current economic crisis, Thayer assured neighbors that the project was a part of the mayor’s PlaNYC initiative and therefore given as high a priority as it could get.

She also discussed conducting a study to determine the feasibility of closing Union Avenue, Lorimer Street, and Driggs Avenue to motor traffic and even turning the roads into parkland.

After discussing the OSA’s existing priorities, Thayer turned to the gathering of North Brooklyn residents and park-goers and asked for their ideas on how to make the neighborhood’s parks a better place.

A solid majority of suggestions included better park maintenance, especially at McCarren Park. The bathrooms in particular were cited as one of the park’s biggest shortcomings, but others complained about the lack of effective lighting and the poor condition of the lawn. A few attendees spoke about more drastic measures like reseeding the entire park and even completely redesigning it.

“I’d love to see some hills there,” said one attendee.

The other community-suggested agenda items were primarily focused on expanding existing park programs or facilities, like creating more sports fields, more park benches, bringing in barbecues, and creating a new venue for public events like concerts and film screenings.

Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who has secured a large amount of state funding for the neighborhood’s parks, spoke about the importance of both open space and the OSA.

“There are a lot of issues in this neighborhood right now: affordable housing, the economy, overdevelopment, and others,” the assemblyman said. “But the creation and use of open space is at least as important as all of these issues. We’ve got a commitment from the city to get more parks here, and this organization is vital to make sure that the city stands up to that.”

The Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn welcomes input from all members of the community. To get involved, visit www.openspacealliancenb.org.

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