Greenpoint residents raised concerns last night about the expansion of Newtown Barge Park, with some pushing for a much-needed dog run and others complaining that they hadn’t been given a fair chance to weigh in on the $7 million project’s design.
Community Board 1’s Parks and Waterfront Committee had planned to vote next week on whether or not to support the present design, even though a public forum hadn’t been held about the park since late 2013. At a public hearing last night, many voiced concern that this left very little time to make revisions.
The Newtown Barge Park is located next to the controversial Greenpoint Landing development, the owners of which agreed to contribute $2.5 million to the $7 million project. The proposed plans for the space will preserve the existing baseball field while removing the squash and basketball courts to make room for grass and trees. One sentiment shared by many at the meeting was that the current plans rely too much on man-made materials (plastic benches and synthetic turf on the baseball field), rather than wood and grass.
Synthetic playing fields tend to drain better than a grass field would, said Gary Sorge, Senior Principal for Stantec, the firm charged with consulting on the project with the New York Parks Department; that means more time playing and less time spent waiting for the field to dry after a storm. The field is also designed to accommodate soccer, field hockey, and other “rectangular sports” that would tear up a grass playing field, agreed Marty Maher, Brooklyn Parks Chief of Staff.
Locals also raised questions about adding a dog run. Would there be problems with owners not cleaning up after their dogs on the playing field, they wondered. Several people added that they often see people letting their dogs off their leashes in the existing field, even though they are not permitted to do so.
John Terelle of the Dog Owners Alliance Within Greenpoint said DAWG has been trying to get a run in North Brooklyn for years and asked if there was any way to put in a provision for one at Newtown Barge Park. His question was not immediately addressed at the meeting, but earlier today Committee Chairman Philip Caponegro told Beford + Bowery that he doesn’t see a dog park being part of the plans.
“I think that’s definitely a thing you need there,” he said. “There is no dog run at that end of Greenpoint. But it wasn’t in the initial plan, and to include that in the plans now would take away too much open green space.” He suggested that dog owners bring their ideas to the planning meetings for Box Street Park, another new green space slated for Greenpoint that Caponegro said the Community Board should be getting to work on soon; though he couldn’t give a timeline, he indicated that discussions about that park should hopefully begin in a matter of months, not years. (Originally plans for the Box Street Park and the Newtown Barge Park were supposed to be drawn up together, but the former has seen delays.)
Caponegro also said that while there could be room for small tweaks here and there, he doesn’t see the main points of the current plan changing, including the plastic benches. He said wooden benches just don’t hold up as well as plastic; they’re also more expensive.
In the end, the board decided to hold another public forum before voting on whether or not to take the proposed plan to the entire Community Board. The date for that meeting has yet to be announced, but it will likely take place next week, according to Caponegro. He said the committee will then meet one more time before the end of the month and hopefully vote to take the revised park design to the Community Board at CB 1’s February meeting.