Nov. 2, 2018 By Laura Hanrahan
The city has taken a significant step forward in the development of two long-promised North Brooklyn parks, with NYC Parks unveiling designs yesterday for both Bushwick Inlet Park and Box Street Park.
NYC Parks spoke to the projects during Community Board 1’s Parks Committee meeting, where they showed designs for 50 Kent Avenue, one of the lots making up Williamsburg’s still-incomplete Bushwick Inlet Park, and Box Street Park in the northern tip of Greenpoint.
While the Parks Committee ultimately gave a conditional approval to the 50 Kent Avenue design, it gave less than stellar reviews to the Box Street Park plan, and essentially asked the city to return to the drawing board.
50 Kent Avenue, which has been operating as a pop-up park since this summer, will undergo a $7.7 million redesign characterized by three main areas: an entry plaza with cafe table seating, a large open, elevated lawn with views of the river and Manhattan skyline, and a family gathering area with a water play station.
The passive, flexible lawn space in the new design stems from community requests for it made in June. The Parks department and Stantec, the design consultants on the project, also hope the passive lawn will allow for the same events that were held in the pop-up space, like movie screenings, theater performances and astronomy sessions, to continue in the new park.
While the Parks Committee was largely pleased with the 50 Kent Avenue design, its approval came with several caveats.
It requested, for instance, more natural elements through the park, like narrower pathways with softer edges, and asked for the standard benches in the design to be swapped for more innovative seating.
The Parks committee also requested a different design to the water play station, and a reevaluation of the park’s greenery choices, given resiliency concerns in case of flooding and high winds during a storm.
The design and committee recommendations for 50 Kent Avenue now go to the full community board for approval. Once the final design has been set, the project will enter a one year procurement period, followed by three to three and a half years of construction.
Plans for Box Street Park, meanwhile, did not sit well with the committee due to the waterfront portion of the project and other aspects of the park’s proposed layout.
The park, at just over 2 acres near Box and Commercial streets, is designed with some active features in mind, as requested by the community during an input meeting earlier this year.
The space will include a basketball court, dog runs for pets of all sizes, but is mostly made up of open grass space. A comfort station is also planned near the entrance of the park.
Similar to Bushwick Inlet Park, the committee made small requests for more natural elements and for more trees to be added to the Box Street Park design.
But the biggest issue raised during the meeting was the lack of direct waterfront access.
The current design calls for a tall sea wall, lined with a rail, that would provide park-goers with no direct access to the water, instead only providing an overlook.
Several committee members openly rejected the design, given its departure from a master plan put forth in 2009 that envisioned direct access to the water’s edge. The committee said Greenpoint deserves better—a comment directed to city officials and met with applause from the packed meeting room.
But Stantec, which is also working on this park, said the design is the result of contaminated soil right at the water’s edge.
To create a soft embankment with direct water access would require digging 20 to 25 feet below ground to clean the soil along the river edge—something that is currently outside of the $21.7 million budget for the park.
Several attendees, however, suggested getting rid of the comfort station and allocating that money towards a more interesting waterfront feature instead.
The committee also asked Stantec to come back with a solid number for the cost of providing waterfront access, and said it will continue deliberating on the waterfront’s design once the findings are provided.
Box Street Park’s design and construction, which is being led by the Economic Development Corporation, may be affected by the suggested changes, but to what extent remains unclear.
Progress on the two parks come after years of delays and setbacks.
The parks have both been in the works since the 2005 Greenpoint/Williamsburg waterfront rezoning, which allowed for dense residential development and promised several acres of public parks along the waterfront as a result.
50 Kent Avenue, spanning 1.8 acres and located between N 11 and N 12 Streets, is one of the six parcels that make up the still-incomplete 25.4 acre Bushwick Inlet Park. The parcel recently underwent a cleanup after decades of contamination from acting as the site of a gas manufacturing plant.
Box Street Park, meanwhile, is currently used by the MTA to store and repair vehicles, a facet that caused the project to be delayed, as the city had to find another lot to store to vehicles before starting work on turning the parcel into a park.