"It's not enough they know our community ranks last when it comes to proximity to parks and open spaces or that the closest spot of green for 2,000 kids is a locked cemetery or that Chelsea's last new playground was built over 40 years ago, " Mr. Weiss continued.
"No, now is the time they see your faces and hear your voices and understand that their land use decisions directly affect quality of life in our neighborhood and that public open space like this little lot benefit everyone. With your help, we move one step closer to making 20th Street park a reality."
After more than sixty years, the Department of Sanitation is relinquishing a two-story office and parking lot in order to consolidate real estate. Friends of 20th Street Park is a diverse community group intent on preserving vital open space by bringing a pocket park to this location. The group counts over 2,000 residents who have signed petitions and written letters of support, along with endorsements from twenty-one individual block associations, Save Chelsea, the Flatiron Alliance and various park advocacy groups. Friends of 20th Street Park has asked elected officials to take a stand in favor of Chelsea’s elderly, disabled and youngest residents, who lack adequate open and recreation space in Chelsea.
The neighborhood of East Chelsea, from 14th to 26th Streets between 6th & 8th Avenues has changed dramatically over time, transforming from a largely commercial district into a vibrant residential community. This twelve-block, two-avenue zone is home to approximately 20,000 residents, including 2,000 children, but has only one designated green space—a locked cemetery on W. 21st Street. Among the nearest Parks to 136 W. 20th Street are Union Square and Madison Square, both outside of the district in Community Board 5, which itself has the least number of playgrounds in New York City, and is more than ½ mile away from the City-owned lot in question. This is at odds with Mayor Bloomberg’s goals on open space as laid out in PlaNYC, which aims for a park within a ½ mile, ten-minute walk of all New Yorkers.
Elected officials have an opportunity to dramatically increase park land and the quality of life for thousands. Despite an unprecedented increase in residential density in the immediate neighborhood, the Community Board’s support for a small affordable housing project on this lot, while a vital priority, is out of touch with the greatest community need. This lot was identified as the smallest of possible off-site housing mitigation for Hudson Yards, despite being one mile away from that development and despite the district’s failing record on open space. This particular area of Chelsea has grown exponentially, with over nine hundred new units of housing added since the Western Rail Yards Rezoning Plan was announced. The need for a park grows daily, and 136 W. 20th Street represents the last and only parcel of remaining open space controlled by the City of New York in East Chelsea.
Charged by Council Speaker and District 4 Representative Christine Quinn with identifying alternate sites for affordable housing that might create a path for a park, Friends of 20th Street Park uncovered more than a dozen properties that have potential to be renovated or reconstructed to house more New Yorkers in need. These include four neglected, city-owned properties at 22 St. and 7th Ave. that used to house 12 units of permanently affordable housing but have since fallen into extreme disrepair with virtually no residents living there today. With HPD’s and our elected leadership’s vision, this property can be repurposed to accommodate scores of incremental affordable housing units beyond the existing 12, while also paving the way for a new park on W. 20th Street – a true community win-win.
Bringing vital new affordable housing and green space helps address two key goals in Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2.0. Friends of 20th Street Park agree with the Mayor that parks are our most cherished form of public infrastructure. With the last playground built in Chelsea over 40 years ago, we hope that our elected officials embrace the Mayor’s challenge for a greener New York and serve all the constituents of the Chelsea community with a new public park at 136 W. 20th Street.
The Epoch Times - May 1, 2011 - By Zack Stieber
1010 Wins - May 1, 2011