The Tanks are tanked. The City of New York has nailed the coffin shut on one group's idea to turn massive abandoned oil tanks on the Brooklyn waterfront into a postindustrial playground. Instead, the parcel is being cleared of its industrial relics, cleaned up, and returned as an extension to Bushwick Inlet Park, the green space on the East River at the border between Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The demolition of the tanks marks a victory for area residents who want a park with ample wide-open space. For a newer group of designers and real estate professionals, however, the demolition represents a missed opportunity for a creative reuse of distinctive industrial infrastructure. For years, Williamsburg and Greenpoint residents fought for a park on the East River waterfront as the area transitioned away from its industrial roots. Many saw the future green space as a counterpoint to decades of pollution. In 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a deal with residents and area stakeholders to rezone the waterfront for residential uses in exchange for a 28-acre park. One prominent stakeholder, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, pushed for a park with ballfields, wide-open lawns, and the spectacular view of Manhattan that goes with it. Since the groundbreaking a decade ago, the city has acquired land piecemeal and at great expense. The current controversy centers on a seven-acre parcel that supported the Bayside Oil Depot, a petrol storage facility distinguished by ten five-story tanks that loom over the south side of Bushwick Inlet. The city bought that piece of land in March 2016 for $53 million. For those who want the oil tanks to go, the infrastructure is an ugly reminder of the environmental degradation brought on my heavy industry. For others, the tanks are a canvas for postindustrial regeneration that would draw on north Brooklyn's creative reputation. Three years ago, professionals in architecture, design, and real estate banded together to propose repurposing the tanks as galleries, gardens, and an oyster farm. Group leaders Stacey Anderson and Karen Zabarsky assembled a team that includes architect Jay Valgora of STUDIO V Architecture and landscape architect Ken Smith of Ken Smith Workshop. Together, they put forth a vision called The Tanks (formerly Maker Park) that pushed back on the idea that the industrial relics needed to be eliminated for the park to be a success. Ward Dennis, a member of the Friends group and a partner at New York's Higgins Quasebarth, dismissed The Tanks as a non-starter from the get-go. "The alternative proposal has never really gotten a lot of traction in the community. Open space was the priority," said Dennis. Another issue at play in the tanks debate centers on public safety; the ground around and underneath the tanks is toxic and needs remediation. The Tanks group hired an outside environmental consultant who determined that remediation can be accomplished with the tanks in-situ, but the city contends that the tanks must be removed for a full clean-up. A NYC Parks Department spokesperson told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that demolition work began in July.
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8Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio announced that New York City had acquired, for $160 million, a large parcel needed to create the new Bushwick Inlet Park, located on the East River shoreline of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The parcel in question is the 11-acre CitiStorage storage facility, which was ravaged by a seven-alarm fire back in 2015. The site's owner had been demanding up to $250 million for the land, and there were rumors the city would use eminent domain, though that appears to not have happened. “Today’s acquisition is proof positive that we keep our promises,” said Mayor de Blasio in a press release. “We are one step closer to realizing the vision of the completed Bushwick Inlet Park North Brooklyn deserves.” “On a per capita basis, Brooklyn Community Board 1 has one of the city’s lowest ratios of open space," said Brooklyn Community Board 1 Chair Dealice Fuller, also in a press release. "Since the 2005 rezoning our community has added tens of thousands of new residents, but the creation of new open space has not kept pace with the influx of new people. We are highly pleased that the Administration finally lived up to its promises and acquired the parcels that comprised the CitiStorage site. With the NYC Parks now leading the charge, we can begin moving forward to make this park a true reality.” This final parcel is just one of six that will go into the new 27-acre park; 3.5 acres are already finished and open to the public. The already-completed section, designed by Brooklyn-based Kiss + Cathcart, features a multi-purpose sports field, viewing platform, and community activities building, in addition to other amenities. Many ideas have been floated for the new park's design, including a "Maker Park" that would make sure of derelict industrial facilities near the inlet, though the City and NYC Parks have not released final plans. Four other parcels are currently in various stages of environmental remediation and development; the CitiStorage site must also go through a similar evaluation and remediation process. Once such an evaluation is complete, the City said in a press release, it will formulate a timeline for development. (The article's first image was taken from a 2005 Greenpoint – Williamsburg master plan created by Mayor Bloomberg's administration.)
A new idea recently emerged for a piece of property, which has long been in dispute, along the Bushwick Inlet. The initial plan for the Bushwick Inlet was to convert the industrial “wasteland” into a 28-acre park. That was what was promised to the people of Williamsburg and Greenpoint in 2005 following the Waterfront Rezoning Agreement, introduced under the Bloomberg administration. Advocates for this proposal, including Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, have continually voiced their desire that the property be used for green space. However, Citistorage owner Norman Brodsky still possesses an 11 acre triangle of land needed for the park. It currently holds the old Bayside Oil Depot. Brodsky wants to sell the property for $250 million to the city. However, the city has far exceeded initial cost estimates for the park—$60 million to $90 million—having already spent around $224 million. Rumors are circulating that city may use eminent domain to take the land. If that were to happen, the city would have to compensate Brodsky for a certain amount, then additionally pay for the extensive environmental remediation needed to make the site usable. As of yet, the city has not make decision. More recently, however, local stakeholder Zac Waldman has floated a vision for a “Maker Park” at the site's industrial facilities. In fact, Waldman has assembled a team of supporters to translate that vision into a more definitive plan. They include the events coordinator for the Municipal Art Society (MAS); Stacey Anderson, a creative director at Kushner Companies; Karen Zabarsky; and architect Jay Valgora of New York City–based firm STUDIO V Architecture, along with other designers and developers. Valgora is known for his adaptive reuse projects, such as Empire Stores, the redevelopment of an empty and neglected brick storehouse in DUMBO, Brooklyn. While no definitive plans have been revealed for Maker Park, the development team is working to devise a strategy to convert the warehouses, garages, and cylindrical fuel containers into an artisan marketplace and industrial playground. The Maker Park website describes the vision as “a beautiful and otherworldly industrial topography.” However, Natalie Grybauskas, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, has stated that Maker Park is not a feasible use of the site due to the need for environmental remediation, according to The New York Times. Previous projects of this nature have proved successful, notably the on-going Freshkills Park project and the Croton Water Filtration Plant. Freshkills was the world’s largest landfill until 2001, when it stopped receiving trash (save the debris from post-9/11 cleanups). Over the course of two decades, each of the Staten Island landfill’s massive mounds have been capped, allowing development of 2,200 acres of parkland that offer hiking, biking, playgrounds, and a number of other amenities not typically accessible to residents and visitors of New York City. The site even harvests natural gas from the contained landfill. The Croton Water Filtration Plant, designed by New York City–based Grimshaw Architects, is situated beneath a golf driving range in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. An article in The New York Times notes that 290 million gallons of water are treated each day at the $3.2 billion plant. Additionally, the plant provides 100 million of gallons of water each day to the western edges of Manhattan and areas of the Bronx. While adaptive reuse has played a significant role in breaking up the monotony of the congested metropolitan landscape in these projects, the concept of an "industrial theme" for the Maker Park remains vague. Although the use of existing infrastructure presents advantages, there are still many considerations to take into account before this is deemed feasible and worthy of the community. The fact remains that Citistorage still owns 11 acres of the property needed to pursue any development for public use of the site, or development, period, since anyone could snatch up the property.
As AN recently reported, a fire that destroyed a warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn has rekindled questions about a long-promised waterfront park. Back in 2005, Michael Bloomberg rezoned much of Williamsburg and Greenpoint leading to a surge in glassy towers. With those towers was supposed to come Bushwick Inlet Park, a 28-acre green space along the East River. But in the decade since, only parts of the park have been completed. That is partly because when the city rezoned the waterfront, it didn't purchase the 11-acre Citistorage property that sits in the middle of the planned park. Now, with one of the warehouses destroyed, local residents and elected officials are urging the de Blasio administration to finally acquire the lot and deliver more green space. But with the property reportedly valued between $75 million and $100 million, the de Blasio administration says it has no plans to do so. In spite of that, over the weekend protesters used "light graffiti" to urge the administration to change course. Gothamist reported that images were projected on the side of a storage facility next to the charred site that read: "The city mapped it, designed it, and promised it and we need it more than ever," "Hey de Blasio Where's Our Park?" and "This Right Here is Supposed to be a Park." There were also details displayed about an upcoming rally planned outside City Hall on Thursday. The event in Williamsburg brings us back to 2011 when Occupy Wall Street protesters projected so-called "bat signals" on the side of the Verizon Building next to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Downtown Brooklyn is growing at a fast pace, but it looks like transit is having trouble keeping up with the spike in population and increased congestion that has resulted from the Barclays Center and the onset of new commercial and residential developments. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, along with the help of Councilwoman Letitia James and local civic groups, have put together a report called “Brooklyn Gateway Transportation Vision,” which outlines a variety of transit problems and potential solutions, including: enhanced bus service, residential parking permits, congestion pricing, improved safety and access for pedestrians, and more cycling amenities such as a bike share program and parking.
Yesterday, in a quiet ceremony attended by Mayor Bloomberg, the city broke ground on the first phase of Bushwick Inlet Park. Situated between North 9th and 10th streets along the Williamsburg waterfront, this initial stage of construction will comprise a synthetic turf athletic playing field. Turns out I was also on the Williamsburg waterfront at the time, on a tour of that neighborhood with photographer and AN Editorial Intern Victoria Monjo, capturing images for our forthcoming developers issue (see last year's here). One of the images we captured was of Bushwick Inlet itself, which sits three or four blocks to the north of where the festivities were taking place. Eventually, park construction will extend all the way to this placid cove, where, according to the Parks Department's initial plan, there will be a beach, planted terraces, and a performance garden, whatever that is. See the view from Kent Avenue after the jump.