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Over a year ago, the Gowanus community heard the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s plan to create a “Sponge Park” on a Verizon parking lot near the highly-polluted canal.  Today, the Brooklyn Paper reports that Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Carroll Gardens) has earmarked $300,000 to implement a pilot version of this community-based plan.

The Conservancy envisions the park as a tool to help reduce runoff into the canal, and to help soak up toxins from the waterway, which is so polluted that the EPA is currently considering it for federal Superfund status.  (The City opposes this pottential designation, arguing that it could manage the cleanup more effectively.)

The $300,000 is not enough to implement the full park, the Brooklyn Paper reports, but could potentially result in a one-block esplanade.

Williamsburg Blogger Brooklyn 11211 wishes North Brooklyn a “Happy Rezoning Day” today, on the fourth anniversary of the passage of a massive rezoning of the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfronts.  The Department of City Planning supposedly based this rezoning on the neighborhoods’ 197-plans; however, the community ended up with much more development than it bargained for.  11211 writes,

“Here in North Brooklyn, the last four years have brought construction – a hell of a lot of construction. In Community Board 1, over 1,000 major construction projects have been filed with DOB since May, 2005. Thousands of new housing units are at some point in the pipeline – planned, filed, under construction or occupied. (And despite a global economic meltdown or two, construction in North Brooklyn has not noticeably abated.)
In exchange for all of this new construction, the community was promised a lot. And while the new construction continues full bore, most of the promised benefits of the rezoning have yet to be realized.”

The post goes on to analyze the results of the rezoning in regards to affordable housing, open space, manufacturing retention, and follow-up rezonings in the upland areas.  Read the details here.

The post continues, “Things are arguably worse on the open space front. A lot of new open space was proposed in the rezoning and in the points of agreement negotiated between the City Council and the Bloomberg administration, and almost nothing has been built.”

To address this, North Brooklyn advocacy organizations (and Community-Based Planning Task Force members) Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) and the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning (GWAPP) are sponsoring Where’s My Park? Day on Saturday (it’s “It’s My Park! Day in the rest of the city). NAG says, “Bring your kids and your grandmas to East River Park (N 8th and Kent) at 12:30 to make some pro-park crafts and picket signs, and then join us at 2:30 as we march down past several of the promised parks’ locked gates. The day will end with a block party full of music, games, refreshments, and community… in a parking lot.”

Last weekend, Task Force members the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership teamed up with the Storefront for Art and Architecture to bring the Space Buster, a portable bubble designed by German architecture firm Raumlabor, to a space underneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.  Participants from the neighborhood gathered inside the bubble to envision how the space might be enlivened, and came up with a number of ideas, from a community garden to a swimming pool.  Check out a set of photographs and drawings from the event (such as the one seen above) at Myrtle Minutes.

The Department of Transportation’s NYC Plaza Program partners the agency with local non-profit organizations to turn underutilized DOT property into thriving public space.  DOT funds design and construction of the new plaza, while the non-profits are responsible for maintenance, programming, community outreach, a long-term funding plan, etc.

DOT recently selected nine  sites in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan, for Round One of the Plaza Program.  These sites were chosen based on the City’s goals as outlined in PlaNYC 2030, and the following criteria:

  • Open space – whether or not the neighborhood lacked open space
  • Community initiative – the extent to which the applicant had developed a community plan, consensus for the site, and garnered local support
  • Site context – the proposed site’s relationship to surrounding land uses and businesses, proximity to transit, the presence of significant view corridors or historic sites, and pedestrian activity
  • Organizational capacity – the extent to which the applicant is willing and able to program activities, maintain, operate and manage the plaza once it is built
  • Income eligibility – applicants received additional points for proposals located in neighborhoods that qualify as low- or moderate-income

DOT is about to begin Round 2 of this initiative, and is holding informational sessions in each borough:

Manhattan
Monday, May 4
3-4 pm
NYC DOT
220 Church, Rm. 814
New York, NY 10013

Brooklyn
Tuesday, May 12
3-4 pm
Brooklyn Borough Hall, Community Room
209 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Staten Island
Tuesday, May 19
3-4 pm
Staten Island Borough Hall
10 Richmond Terrace, Conference Room 122
Staten Island, NY 10301

Bronx
Wed, May 13
3-4 pm
Bronx Library Center
310 East Kingsbridge Road
Bronx, NY 10458

Interested parties should RSVP to plazas@dot.nyc.gov. The deadline to submit applications is Tuesday, June 30, 2009.

This monthly feature profiles a plan included in Planning for All New Yorkers: An Atlas of Community-Based Plans in New York City, an interactive, online tool created by the Municipal Art Society and the Community-Based Planning Task Force. This month, we feature the Rockaway Waterfront Park Plan for Seagirt Beach, spearheaded by Jeanne DuPont, Executive Director of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance and winner of the 2008 Yolanda Garcia Community Planner Award. Nominations for the 2009 Yolanda Garcia award will be open soon!

Far Rockaway, Queens consists of two square miles of barrier island just across the bay from JFK Airport and just west of the Nassau County line.  Its population is diverse, including a large Orthodox Jewish community, and immigrants from Russia, Jamaica, Guyana, and Guatemala.  While there are some upscale areas, particularly near the Long Island border, a large percentage of residents live in public or rent-regulated housing. The area has been hit hard recently by a double-whammy: a wave of foreclosures due to the ongoing mortgage crisis, and a nearly simultaneous wave of new, often luxury, development.

Jeanne DuPont was inspired to start the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance (RWA) when she saw that much of that new development was proceeding with little regard for current residents.  With a little research and coordination with the Department of City Planning, she also found that quite a bit of land in Far Rockaway reserved for public park space was either abandoned or neglected.

In 2005, RWA created a proposal for a Rockaway Waterfront Park at one such neglected site, Seagirt Beach (pictured above). Located east of the Arverne Urban Renewal Area and just outside of Arverne-by-the-Sea (which has its own community-based plan in the Atlas), this area currently has no public playground in over fifty blocks along Atlantic Ocean side of the Rockaway Peninsula.  The area was once a rich habitat for dolphins, striped bass, sharks, whales, and shellfish; however, dredging by the US Army Corps of Engineers to replenish the beach west of 32nd Street depleted its natural resources.

RWA hosted numerous workshops for Rockaway residents and local youth to participate in brainstorming sessions to plan, design and raise awareness of the Seagirt Beach site. The organization’s goal is to create a public area out of these neglected lots that fits in with the natural landscape of the Rockaway waterfront, and allows the public to participate in the waterfront through educational, arts and cultural events.

In May 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg designated $40 million to establish a public park at Seagirt Beach as part of his PlaNYC 2030 initiative.  However, the process is “moving very slowly,” according to DuPont.  The park has yet to be officially established, and local residents fear that the economic crisis could threaten the plan.

In the meantime, RWA has released an Action Plan for Enhanced Waterfront Park Management, to address the following issues: inaccessible beaches and blocked waterfront access; illegal dumping of trash; and the uneven distribution of trash cans, lifeguards, maintenance, and public facilities along the waterfront.  Their current goal is to create a community-led, youth-focused conservation corps and to raise funds to ensure adequate public safety, maintenance and programming for the Rockaway Waterfront.  They recently achieved a major victory when the City selected RWA to develop the Rockaway Firehouse into a community center, which will focus on environmental programming.

For more details on RWA’s Waterfront Park proposal for Seagirt Beach, please visit the Atlas of Community-Based Plans, where you can download a detailed summary.

Tonight at 6:30pm at the Hudson Guild, the Hudson Yards Community Advisory Committee and Manhattan Community Board 4 are sponsoring a meeting to gather community input on the Hudson Park and Boulevard project.

The Hudson Yards Development Corporation and the Departments of Parks, Transportation, City Planning and Design & Construction chose five finalists in a design competition for the project, which is being planned as app. four acres of newly created parks and open space between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues from West 33rd to West 42nd Streets.

The Hudson Guild is located at 441 West 26th Street (bet. 9th & 10th Ave), and the meeting will be in the Dan Carpenter Room. For more information, call Pat Conway at (212) 736–4536.

In the Inbox today: The design team that is redesigning Governors Island will hold a series of workshops to get public input on plans for the Governors Island Park and Great Promenade on September 27 and 28:

“Give your ideas for the future Governors Island Park and Great Promenade. An acclaimed team, led by West 8, is kicking off the design process for these new open spaces. On Saturday, September 27 and Sunday, September 28, members of the design team will host a workshop to hear what kinds of activities you would like in the future park. The workshop includes a tour of the site of the future park, currently off limits to the general public. Visitors have the option of taking the tour on a Governors Island tram or by bike. After the tour, a facilitated conversation will allow you to give your feedback and impressions. The entire workshop, including the tour, will last two hours.

Governors Island is open from 10 AM to 7 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. Ferries leave from the Battery Maritime Building every hour on the hour and return to Manhattan every hour on the half hour. The workshop will be offered at 10:15 AM, 12:45 PM and 3:15 PM and will end in time for participants to take the 12:30 PM, 3:30 PM or 5:30 PM ferries, respectively. Workshops begin in front of Building 110 on Governors Island.

Space is limited. If you wish to participate in the tour and workshop, you must RSVP in advance to Ellen Cavanagh of GIPEC (Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation) at ecavanagh@empire.state.ny.us. Please indicate which workshop you would be able to attend and if you will take the tram tour, bring a bike or need to rent one from the kiosk on Governors Island.

If you are interested in the workshop but cannot attend at one of the scheduled times, please let Ellen Cavanagh know so GIPEC can keep you informed about future opportunities for input. For more information and a more detailed ferry schedule, please visit www.govisland.com.”

Rendering from West 8 via Curbed.

Another opportunity to ask an expert this week: over at the NY Times’ City Room Blog, Ned Sullivan, the president of Scenic Hudson, will be answering questions about how New York City and its residents can preserve land and promote smart growth along the Hudson River. Readers are invited to submit their questions about preserving land and creating public parks and about environmentally friendly, sustainable development. Check it out!

Prospect Lefferts Gardens blog Hawthorne Street has news about an upcoming meeting about the redesign of the southeast section of Prospect Park, including changes to the dangerous Parkside Ave./Ocean Ave. intersection, and the construction of a new Lakeside Center. This “green” facility will replace Wollman ice skating rink with two new rinks that will be used year-round: ice skating in the winter, and water features, movies, and community events in warmer weather.

To give your input on the plan, you can attend the meeting Monday night, May 19 at 6:30pm at Wollman Rink.

In addition, PLG Public Works, a group working to improve public spaces and streets in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, is looking for volunteers.

In yesterday’s Times, writer Jeff Byles interviews a number of people who are thinking about ways to change our relationship with our streets. He writes, “These street reformers — planners, architects and urban officials from around the globe — are questioning the conventional street-curb-sidewalk motif, challenging the dominance of cars, and devising ways to use street furniture, plants and even radical new vehicles to transform the experience of the street.”

He examines 10 methods for street improvements, from creating permanent play streets and bicycle boulevards, to creating a “green grid” on Manhattan’s busiest streets. The article mentions three community-based plans: the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, Ninth Avenue Renaissance, and vision42, all of which will be included in Planning for All New Yorkers, an Atlas of Community-Based plans, set to launch online next week.

But community-based planners are not the only ones thinking about making our streets greener and more pedestrian-friendly. On April 28, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn will visit the Municipal Art Society to present:

Sustainable Streets
Highlights from the Strategic Plan for the New York City Department of Transportation 2008 and Beyond

Monday, April 28, 2008
Cocktails at 6:00 p.m., Remarks at 6:45 p.m.
At the Municipal Art Society, 457 Madison Avenue, at E.51st Street
Space is limited and reservations are required.
Please call the Municipal Art Society
on 212-935-2075 or reserve your place online now
.

…Rumor has it there will be valet bike parking.

Photo of Gansevoort Plaza via Project for Public Spaces.

Since 2000, The Community-Based Planning Task Force has been leading the effort to create a more meaningful role for communities in New York City’s planning and decision-making processes.

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