Fort Greene residents celebrated in 2016 when they won $10.5 million to upgrade their neighborhood park—but now residents question the direction of the proposed rehabilitation.
A plan to renovate the northwestern corner of Fort Greene Park near downtown Brooklyn has become the object of anger and frustration by some of the area's local residents.
The proposed plan from Parks Without Borders and the Department of Parks and Recreation (which is leading the project) would replace the current grassy esplanade with a paved plaza, an initiative to make city parks more accessible and open.
In addition to a newly paved plaza, the plan includes resurfacing the basketball courts, installing permanent barbecues, increasing the amount of fitness equipment and making the space ADA-accessible where the current design is not.
"[The new design] is going to be a more democratic and accessible and more vibrant space for the community," said Julian Macrone of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, which supports the Parks Without Borders proposal. Also, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the design in late November.
Currently, a swath of grass and foliage, including dozens of large trees, extends from the corner of Myrtle Avenue and South Edwards Street and leads to the war memorial at the center of the park. The series of grassy mounds was built by landscape architect A.E. Bye in the 1970s and is a favorite feature of locals.
Last year, the park saw initial improvement efforts including benches, a retrofitted drainage system, plantings, and more. However, residents complain the new planned changes would reduce the amount of shaded green space. Several trees would be cut down in the process, and they say they don't want to see them disappear.
"We take tree removal very seriously," Maeri Ferguson of the Parks Department wrote in an email. "The Parks Without Borders project at Fort Greene Park is no exception. And while design-based tree removals are uncommon in our capital projects, it is necessary for this design."
Residents say, however, that the city failed to include them in the plan's design and review process, despite the public hearings held beforehand: "This has been a top-down initiative, there was never any real intent to engage with the public and take in their ideas," said Fort Greene resident Enid Braun.
Ling Hsu, who was originally neutral about the plans, organized an advocacy group, Friends of Fort Greene Park, after she witness the conflict at a public meeting. "The process blocked input from residents," she said. "There is no design that residents are happy about, so parks should keep the park the way it is."
Hsu said Friends of Fort Greene Park produced an alternative proposal that retains more of the current features, but it has not received serious consideration.
Construction is slated to begin in 2019.
Story updated: 12/15 12:09pm