Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fight For W. 20th Street Park Heats Up

"When I was raising (two kids) we were desperate, desperate for a new park, " said Pamela Wolff, an area resident for more than 52 years and now a grandmother of two. "We are still desperate for a park. Could we please get one."

Supporters of building a park at 136 W. 20th St. surround Community Board 4 members a full board meeting on January 5, 2011. More than a hundred people came out in support of the park. Friends of W. 20th Street Park was formed in September to advocate for creating the open space. The "affordable housing" plan currently being supported by the Community Board for this site would accommodate annual incomes of up to 165% AMI or $132,000 based on latest CD4 figures. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click image to enlarge.


When Chelsea residents learned this past September that the Department of Sanitation’s Derelict Vehicle Operations Office at 136 W. 20th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues) was shutting down by the end of 2011, they were thrilled, according to a front page article in Chelsea Now.

The low-rise, two-story administration building and adjacent parking lot (used as a holding place for abandoned cars blocking streets) measures 10,000 square feet, about one-quarter acre — just perfect for a pocket park.

They quickly formed Friends of 20th Street Park Steering Committee. The diverse coalition of residents and business owners throughout Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen and Clinton put together a proposal for a park and took it to Community Board 4 and elected officials. “Many of us have long thought of this little weedy lot as a park. When the gate is wide open, we walk our dogs and have pictured a few benches and a playground,” said Matt Weiss, a member of the executive committee.

What they didn’t know, however, was that the property they had fallen in love with was engaged to someone else. “We found out in mid-October that there was already an outstanding commitment made by the community board and Speaker Christine Quinn to develop subsidized housing there,” said Weiss. “Our response is that this is a conflict of good. Both are vital priorities for the community and the city, and in this part of the neighborhood we can have both.”

Weiss explained that the board had already secured 90% of their affordable housing goals as part of the rezoned Western Rail Yards (WRY) — bounded by 33rd Street on the north, 30th Street on the south, 11th Avenue on the east and the Hudson River on the west. The rezoning plan, approved by the City Council, will allow for the preservation of existing housing and create a vast majority of new permanent affordable housing for the area.

“The community board achieved an astounding success rate on their affordable housing goals tied to the Rail Yards. But we are talking about approximately 75 units of housing versus a park that would benefit thousands. Is the community board really representing the greatest needs of this micro-neighborhood with no green space within half a mile?” asked Weiss. “Without the lot, they get around 1,225 units of housing; with it, 1,300, but no open space. The need for a park grows daily, as the residential population of Chelsea has exploded. Not every vacant lot should be a building.”

East Chelsea, a 12-block, two-avenue radius encompassing 14th Street to 26th Street between Sixth and Eighth Avenues, is home to approximately 17,000 residents — including 2,000 children. Since 2007, 13 new residential buildings have been added from 16th to 24th Streets between Sixth and Eighth Avenues, translating to 700 new units. The closest zone of green is the W. 21st Street cemetery, with the nearest park of any consequence (Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly Playground) on 17th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. “This is at odds with the Mayor’s goals for open space — as laid out in PlaNYC — of a park within a half-mile, ten-minute walk for all New Yorkers,” Weiss noted.

136 W. 20th St. The 10,000 Sq. foot site is currently owned by the Department of Sanitation. East Chelsea residents want the property turned into a desperately needed public park in a particularly park starved area of the city. (Photo: Friends of 20th Street Park- courtesy NYC Park Advocates) Click image to enlarge.

Read More:

NY1 News - January 14, 2010 - By Rebecca Spitz

Chelsea Residents Take Park Fight, Signs, to Board Throwdown
Curbed - January 13, 2011 - by Joey Arak

Chelsea Now - January 12, 2010 - By Bonnie Rosenstock

DNAinfo - December 6, 2010 - By Tara Kyle

1 comment:

  1. We have so many buildings in our district and so little green. There is such a need for a park in east Chelsea as it would make such a big difference in our community. I totally agree with the 20th street steering committee and I hope they prevail.