Finally, it looks like Williamsburg will get its waterside park. The city has made a deal to buy the last piece of the puzzle, a chunk of land that had been blocking plans for the long-promised 28-acre Bushwick Inlet Park. As Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Tuesday morning, “We Kept Our Promise.”
The city did indeed keep its promise, but it took a while. Along the north side of the Williamsburg waterfront, a chain-link fence spans the length of several blocks, obscuring views of the Manhattan skyline that rises in the distance behind it. Letters made of cheap, colorful cloth have been woven throughout the metal links to form the words “SAVE BUSHWICK INLET PARK,” just one sign of the long struggle build the park. Behind the fence, a hill of weeds and brambles slopes downward towards the East River, the waterway that divides Brooklyn from Manhattan.
The piece of land has long been a key component of the 28-acre park that Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to erect as part of the city’s 2005 rezoning of the Wiliamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront. The park was a concession to the community for the rezoning that paved the way for developers to build the high-rise luxury apartments that now riddle the area.
After eleven years spent buying up other waterfront land for the proposed park, the mayor announced today in a tweet that the city has acquired the last piece of land necessary to complete the park—a 7.5-acre CitiStorage site owned by an entrepreneur, Norman Brodsky. Prior to reaching an agreement with the city, Brodsky had rejected Mayor de Blasio’s offers of $100 million and $175 million, respectively, and told the city he would sell the property to a private developer if a higher offer wasn’t made.
We kept our promise: Today, NYC is better & fairer with purchase of land to complete Bushwick Inlet Park.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 22, 2016
It's done Williamsburg has its park
— Norm Brodsky (@NormBrodsky) November 22, 2016
“After an extensive negotiation, we have struck a fair agreement to acquire the CitiStorage site,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “”Our administration keeps its promises. When we commit to build a new park or a new school in a growing community, we deliver. We look forward to working with local officials, activists and residents as we design and build a Bushwick Inlet Park we can all be proud of.”
Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, an advocacy group made up of neighborhood volunteers, has been fighting for the completion of the park since 2008. In response to Mayor de Blasio’s most recent round of negotiations with Brodsky, they launched a social media campaign encouraging community members to tweet at and call de Blasio. Steve Chesler, a resident of Greenpoint who has been involved with Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park since 2014, said in an interview conducted before the final agreement was made that the campaign was a success.
“People responded really well to our call to action,” said Chesler. “The feedback we got from our council member who is in contact with the administration said it had an impact on negotiations.”
The social media campaign was aimed at urging de Blasio not to give up on negotiations after Brodsky announced that the city had until Friday, November 4th to make him a final offer. Negotiations carried on past that date and, in the end, the city will be purchasing the site from Brodsky for $160 million.
“Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park applauds Mayor Bill De Blasio for fulfilling the 11-year-old commitment to create significant open space along the North Brooklyn waterfront to remediate the impact of the 2005 Waterfront Rezoning,” said Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park in a statement released this morning. “There was also an enormous amount of grassroots, community support, without which none of this would have happened.”
In the meantime, community activists aren’t sitting around waiting for the city to finish constructing the park. Chesler says that Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park is focused on improving the part of the park that has already been completed. “We scheduled a daffodil planting on December 3rd down near the soccer fields,” he said. “The wheels are in motion but it’s a big process.”