Parks in Greenpoint/Williamsburg
GWAPP is dedicated to promoting parks in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. Our community has long been near the bottom of the list of community boards in New York City in terms of park space per capita, and well below recommended norms for tree canopy cover in urban environments. Parks and trees are vital to a healthy community, providing much-needed recreation space for children and adults alike, as well as cleaning the urban air. With implementation of the 2005 waterfront rezoning, which GWAPP was involved in, the city promised increased parks and open space for the community. GWAPP continues to fight to make sure those projects become a reality.
I. Bushwick Inlet Park
Bushwick Inlet Park was first envisioned by local community leaders in 1989 as part the 197a plan. At the time, neighborhood opposition to proposals to build power plants and waster transfer stations along the waterfront fueled the need for Greenpoint and Williamsburg to prepare its own plans for waterfront under section 197a of the City Charter (which authorizes local community boards to formulate land use and development plans which are then submitted to the City for review). The development of a waterfront park and marina was a centerpiece and point in common for the Williamsburg and Greenpoint 197a plans.
The 2003 PlanNYC2012, New York City’s plan for the 2012 Summer Olympics, included an elaborate proposal for a water front park to be the site of an aquatics stadium as well as beach volleyball and archery. Schematic drawings for the proposed park and stadium were widely published.
The 2005 Greenpoint Williamsburg Waterfront Rezoning called on the City of NY to condemn and acquire 28 acres of privately owned real estate to create the Bushwick Inlet Park and in 2006 the Parks Department unveiled a preliminary master plan calling for a waterfront esplanade, ball fields, a boat house and a performance area in the footprint of bayside fuel tanks.
However, in the years since that explicit promise from Mayor Bloomberg, the acquisition and development of the underlying parcels of land that make up the park has been frustratingly slow. At the time of the 2005 rezoning, six separate entities owned the 28 acres that would make up the park.
Since then, the City has only acquired three of the six parcels and has begun development of only one of them. And in a shocking reversal, the City recently told community leaders that it had “no funding for” and “no schedule for” finishing the park.
For more information visit our partner organization Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. Visit Where’s Our Park? to get more information on what you can do to make this park a reality. And to get a better understanding land ownership parcel-by-parcel click here.
II. East River State Park
From 1906 until 1983, the seven-acre site that makes up the East River State Park was a bustling railroad freight terminal called the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal. Some of the tracks and the concrete floors of the original facility are still major features of the park. For many years there were proposals to use the abandoned riverfront property for another waste transfer station, and the community activist organization NAG (at that time Neighbors Against Garbage) took it up as a central cause. When, in the early 2000s, New York University appeared to be on the verge of buying the land to create an athletic complex (with limited access for residents), it seemed like a relatively good deal. Although there was deep concern when NYU backed out of the arrangement, the New York State Parks Department stepped in and opened the East River State Park in 2007. Since then, as the largest riverfront open space in North Brooklyn, it has become a vital part of life in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. There is an active Friends of the East River State Park group operating under the umbrella of NAG (now Neighbors Allied for Good Growth).
III. India Street Pier
The 2005 rezoning of the Greenpoint/Williamsburg waterfront resulted in plans for a 1.6 mile waterfront esplanade along the East River. Under that scheme, the esplanade was to be built one block at a time as each parcel was purchased and developed by private developers. GWAPP decided to “jump start” the process by building out a mini-park on the first segment of the esplanade.
Made possible by a generous grant from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, GWAPP began Phase 1 of the project, developing design and construction documents. Located at the end of Java Street on the East River, this street-end park followed the design guidelines set forth in the rezoning. The park provided Greenpoint’s very first “legal” access to our East River waterfront. In addition, it gave the community the opportunity to “try out” the design guidelines set forth in the zoning resolution and attempt to make revisions if required prior to developers beginning construction on the balance of the esplanade.
In 2011, the India Street Pier opened with ferry access on the East River. Currently, the park on Java Street and the pier are not connected, but GWAPP is working to connect the two halves, thereby completing the first full section of Greenpoint’s rezoning.
- GWAPP: India Street – Street End Park Design Planning Meeting – PDF (1.2MB). February 8, 2005
GWAPP held a community meeting to introduce the India Street Park project. This document gives an overview of the project as well as the background design parameters.
IV. Transmitter Park
The new park on the East River at the end of Greenpoint Avenue was opened to the public August 25, 2012. Designed and built by the NYC Economic Development Corporation and NYC Parks & Recreation on the site of the former WNYC radio transmitter tower and the Greenpoint Ferry Terminal, ground was broken on the park in August 2010.
- Donna Walcavage: Greenpoint Ave Park Concept Design – PDF (479KB). Undated
V. McCarren Park Pool
Built in the 1930s as one of several large Works Progress Administration swimming pools constructed around the city, the McCarren Park Pool was for many years the only free pool available for residents of several neighborhoods in and near North Brooklyn. The original pool, which accommodated hundreds of swimmers at a time, was used heavily from the time it opened until the 1970s, when it began to fall into disrepair due to lack of maintenance as a result of the city’s fiscal crisis. Finally, the city closed the facility in 1984.
Over the intervening years, the Greenpoint/Williamsburg communities worked to come up with a plan to re-open the pool. GWAPP helped with this process by bringing together various community groups, along with Community Board #1, with the goal of coming to consensus about how the new pool should be configured. In 2000, New York City’s bid to host the 2012 summer Olympics, which would have included a new facility on the East River waterfront, mobilized the community to take ownership of the pool and move ahead with planning. The city also stepped forward with funding. The refurbished McCarren Park Pool, a much-needed resource for North Brooklyn, opened to the public in summer of 2012.
VI. Sgt. William Dougherty Playground
As part of the reconstruction of the Kosciuszko Bridge, which carries the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway over Newtown Creek, it was determined that all potential options for the bridge improvement project would impact Sgt. William Dougherty Playground, which is by the bridge’s on ramp. As such, those impacts had to be mitigated. The New York State Department of Transportation presented possible mitigations to improve and expand Sgt. Dougherty Playground, which the Kosciuszko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee Parks & Open Space Sub-Committee and the community had the opportunity to help shape.
- NYDOT Memorandum: Kosciuszko Bridge Project Sgt. Dougherty Playground: Conceptual Plans – PDF (29KB). February 2006
- Kosciuszko Bridge Project: Proposed Sgt. Dougherty Playground and Replacement Lands Program Elements – PDF (1MB). December 2005
VII. Under the Williamsburg Bridge Park
In the 2004 GWAPP/Trust for Public Land Open Space Study, a new park was proposed to serve the Southside community on city-owned property beneath and south of the Williamsburg Bridge on the East River waterfront. Council Member David Yassky issued a “Waterfront Waste Report” in 2005 that listed city-owned waterfront properties and called for them to be converted to more appropriate uses. This proposed park site, which is currently being used by the Department of Transportation, is one of them.
- New York City Council Member David Yassky, Press Release: Waterfront Wastes and Opportunities 2005 – PDF (4.7MB). Undated
What’s Happening Now?
Learn more about street-end parks, Transmitter Park, McCarren Park Pool and other current park-related issues and activities on our Issues page.