OSA CommComm Public Forum Recap

by Heather Van De Mark on

Last night, Open Space Alliance (OSA) Community Committee (CommComm) held a public forum to openly discuss the current state of North Brooklyn parks with involved and concerned community residents. About half the residents attending had never been to an OSA meeting, meaning lots of new people are getting involved which is great! The event progressed smoothly and involved an explanation of the difference between OSA and OSA CommComm; an introduction of the OSA staff and OSA CommComm co-chairs; PPT presentations on current capital projects and future park enhancements; a brief Q&A; and then small-group, facilitated discussions that were then shared with the larger audience.

What is OSA. What is OSA CommComm.
OSA is an organization that works in partnership with NYC Parks & Recreation to improve North Brooklyn parks. They’re unique from other park conservancies in that OSA represents an entire district instead of a singe park and because of it’s Community Committee. CommComm is an independent body from the OSA board that advocates for and represents the concerns of its members (which are other community organizations.) CommComm meets every two months to collect ideas and feedback from its members to bring to the OSA board. They also hold public forums (ideally twice a year but sometimes as little as once every two years) to collect feedback directly from community members to bring to the OSA board.

OSA staff is Kurt Cavanaugh, Deputy Director, and Ed Janoff, Executive Director. CommComm co-chairs are Katie Denny and Todd Eaton.

Capital Projects and Parks Updates
Janoff presented on several capital projects that are currently underway or completed, including:

  • Greenpoint Playground Comfort Station,
  • Rodney Playground Center,
  • WNYC Transmitter Park,
  • McCarren Park Pathways and Demapping,
  • Bushwick Inlet,
  • North 5th Street Pier,
  • 65 Commercial St., and
  • Newtown Barge Terminal Playground.

He also discussed upcoming park enhancements. They chose these specific enhancements on a criteria of critical need, visual impact, ease of implementation, and balanced distribution. These include:

  • District wide maintenance,
  • Athletic field/area improvement,
  • Playground improvement,
  • McCarren Park pool line,
  • Increased park programming,
  • Park programming equipment,
  • Bathroom improvements,
  • Greenstreet at Meeker & Morgan Aves., and
  • Moveable tables and chairs.

For more details about each project and enhancement, view OSA’s Public Parks Forum presentation [PDF – 4.7MB] or click the image below.

Q&A from the Audience
Audience members were asked their questions directly to Janoff who either took down notes to follow-up or answered as best he could on the spot. [Note: These notes are in no way official, but rather serve to inform the community of the questions, comments, concerns that were raised and how they were addressed.]

Q. Are there any projects/programming geared toward McGolrick park? A few suggestions included renovating the pavilion, improving the playground, foundation repairs around the fence.
A. Currently, there are no capital projects from Parks on the radar, marked for follow-up.

Q. Why does the stage for Williamsburg Park concerts face into the neighborhood rather than the other way towards the water. As a result, the community is getting a lot of noise pollution from the concert. During the concert’s first year, the stage was facing towards the water.
A. Unsure if there is a specific reason for this set-up, marked for follow up.

Q. Given Greenpoint’s high person-to-dog ratio, what’s being done to bring a dog-run or dog-park to north Greenpoint, and will OSA work DOG (Dog Owner Alliance in Greenpoint) to find a temporary space?
A. Yes, they have been looking into long-term plans for a dog area. And yes, let’s talk about a temporary spot.

Q. What’s the difference between a park and community garden? The community garden on Scholl St. is not shown on the map. [Note: At the meeting, maps were distributed showing the city park spaces in North Brooklyn.]
A. Some community gardens are on private land, some have been adopted by parks but are on private land, and some are official park land. The map only includes official city land, it also may be somewhat outdated.

Q. What’s happening with Cooper Park? Residents made suggestions 2.5 years ago, and don’t feel like enough has been done to make improvements.
A. Phase 1 of Cooper Park is going to bid and hopefully will be under construction next year. Phase 2 is still undergoing fundraising.

Q. What about an ice rink in the pool?
A. An ice rink will be going into McCarren Park pool this winter. It’s a big endeavor that they’ll be unveiling details for in the next few weeks.

Q. Where does the money come from to fund OSA projects?
A. OSA is funded by charitable giving of its board members, the OSA gala, and the ticket revenue for summer concerts.

Q. I’m starting a program in local parks for parents to take their kids to learn to ride a bike. I have sponsorship from local bike stores. Can OSA help me make this happen in the parks?
A. Yes, we want to hear more and we can help. Please do become a CommComm member.

Q. There are many city-owned, vacant spaces in the community, would OSA support initiatives and groups that are trying to make those vacant spaces into parkland?
A. Yes. Union Ave Demapping is a good example of OSA being involved in turning land into park space. They were a co-sponsor for the ULURP application and they sponsored the traffic study for that project.

Q. The William-Sheridan Playground on Grand St. is in need of a lot love. Any plans for it? Also, when kids play hardball (handball?), it’s a hazard as the balls often fly into the playground where younger children are playing.
A. Nothing specific, only district wide enhancements regarding the bathroom and basketball areas, safety issue is marked for followup.

Q. I have concerns that the Flea is not paying enough to operate in the park every weekend. What can we do about private enterprise in our public parks? Can OSA get involved with the State to work on the 2014 plan for East River State Park?
A. East River State Park is a state park, not a city park. OSA’s contract is only for city parks, they have no authority over state land. But given that OSA represents North Brooklyn parks that does include ERSP and they’ll continue to monitor and try to be involved in the situation. Regarding private enterprise in city parks, the city has a very strict bidding process.

Q. Do future developments have control over promenade access? In other words, could a developer close the promenade to the public at certain hours?
A. Closing of the promenade is not permitted. The developers are also being strongly encouraged to turn over future waterfront space to Parks.

Q. Is OSA involved in the $19.5 million Environmental Benefits Program?
A. OSA is not directly involved with EBP. The State Attorney General oversees that program. OSA could always end up working with a local organization to put in a proposal for that money, so they can’t be a part of the process.

Q. Does OSA have a position on Greenpoint Landing? How do you communicate controversial information to the community?
A. [Note: At this time, GWAPP board member, Dewey Thompson, spoke up about GWAPP’s upcoming Greenpoint Landing/ULURP event at the end of June. More details coming very soon!]

Q. I’m surprised to hear that the doming/bubbling of the McCarren Park tennis courts is happening, I didn’t think it was moving forward. How come the RFP was released/awarded without community notice? How can the community use it? Will it be affordable? Will there be community hours?
A. A private enterprise is doming the courts for indoor winter play, so there will be a fee associated with it, they’ve been told it’s identical to Prospect Park’s courts. Construction will happen over the summer, and the doming will be from October to April. Details on pricing marked for followup.

Small-Group, Facilitated Discussion
Everyone broke into small groups, each with a facilitator, to talk about any and all open space issues important to them. Below are a list of items that were raised:

  • Great need to better enforce park rules when it comes to noise, vandalism, littering, dogs on a leash, and everything else,
  • Improved maintenance for parks in general,
  • More bathrooms, waste baskets, bike racks at parks,
  • More space for toddlers at parks,
  • Changing tables in bathrooms,
  • Free winter tennis,
  • Tree pruning, and more tree planting,
  • Adding fruit trees/edibles to parks (may not be legal?,
  • More programming for smaller events,
  • Means for residents to make suggestions/get involved,
  • “How-to” tool kits for residents who want to start groups/programming in parks,
  • How can we work out a relationship between private events and public space,
  • Ensuring open space is being built and not just athletic fields,
  • Playground at McGolrick Park needs love,
  • McGolrick Park in general needs capital repair,
  • Zero-waste initiative and education at McCarren park including more recycling bins and signage,
  • Handicap accommodations at McCarren Park pool and other parks in general,
  • Want to see Box/Commercial St. Park built,
  • Barge Park surface needs repair,
  • Damage done during Hurricane Sandy to Grand Ferry Park needs volunteers, clean-up,
  • New space for Williamsburg Bike Park that will need a new home in a year from now,
  • Adding an environmental center for children at Transmitter Park,
  • Safety enforcement near bike paths outside of ERSP,
  • Can OSA facilitate a meeting between ERSP and the public,
  • Can OSA update the public better on what’s happening with Bushwick Inlet Park,
  • OSA should try to reach a broader constituency better, communicate with public more transparently.

All of the information gathered tonight will be collected by CommComm and presented to the OSA board. OSA will discuss the feasibility of the suggestions and it will inform and impact OSA’s strategic plan for the future of the parks. At the next public forum, they’ll have updates and maybe results on some of these issues. And CommComm will certainly have updates regarding some of these issues by their next meeting in August.


If you have more to say or didn’t get a chance to say what you wanted, contact Kurt Cavanaugh at kurt@osanb.org or Katie Denny and Todd Eaton at osacommunitycommittee@gmail.com.

Heather Van De Mark

Heather Van De Mark

Heather is a designer/writer specializing in non-profit organizations and social causes. Originally from central NY, Heather settled into the charming Greenpoint neighborhood in 2011. While most of her community activism takes place from behind a computer screen, Heather can often be found at CB1 meetings, the McCarren Park track and any of the parks along the waterfront.
  • Garret S. commented:

    This is great. Thanks, Heather!


  • Holly Fairall

    Holly Fairall commented:

    Dear Heather, Thank you SOOOO much for writing this thorough report. I couldn’t make it to the meeting but thanks to your excellent reporting I feel like I have a very good understanding of the issues discussed. Keep up the great work, and thanks again!!


  • Heather Van De Mark

    Heather Van De Mark commented:

    Thanks for the kind words! I really enjoy what I do, and I’m glad others are getting something from it. 🙂