NAG started over 17 years ago as an advocacy group for public access to the waterfront. At that time, NAG (as Neighbors Against Garbage) was fighting against a Giuliani-administration plan to put waste transfer stations on the Northside waterfront. With the advent of the 2005 waterfront rezoning, the waste transfer stations were history, and the redevelopment of the Northside waterfront became a reality.
For many years, NAG has been advocating to expand access to the waterfront and open space, and one site that we have pushed strongly for is the DCAS/DOT property on the waterfront between South 6th Street and Broadway. This City-owned does not present the acquisition issues that are holding up the creation of parks on the Northside and Greenpoint waterfronts, and would be a tremendous open space asset to the Southside, a part of our community that is particularly underserved in terms of open space in general and passive (green) open space in particular. NAG supported the efforts of former City Councilman David Yassky to have the DCAS/DOT property transferred to the Department of Parks, and we have successfully advocated for the inclusion of the site in Community Board 1’s District Needs Statements and in the City’s Vision 2020 Comprehensive Waterfront Plan.
In 2011, NAG was awarded a grant from the Citizens Committee for New York City to advocate for the creation of Williamsburg Bridge Park. This proposed park is located on City-owned property directly under and to the south of the Williamsburg Bridge. In addition to providing much-needed public open space for the Southside and South Williamsburg, the location is a vital missing piece in creating continuous waterfront public access from Wallabout Creek to Newtown Creek. The property currently contains a warehouse for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and workshops for the Bridge Division of the Department of Transportation (DOT). DCAS occupies a two-story Art Moderne structure on Kent Avenue, and DOT a collection of older buildings underneath the bridge.
Working with local and regional partners such as El Puente, Churches United for Fair Housing, Los Sures, UJO, UJ Care, GWAPP, OSA, the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative and the Regional Plan Association, NAG organized a series of community workshops and visioning sessions to define a list of community priorities for a new waterfront park. Using information and ideas from hundreds of local residents, the architects and landscape designers at Madderlake Designs developed a master plan that integrates open space with the existing structures to create a unique combination of community facilities, active and passive open space, and waterfront access.
The plan recognizes the limitation of the site – a shallow waterfront parcel, existing buildings and uses – and proposes an economical and feasible development project. The DCAS building would opened up – literally – to the waterfront, carving away sections to create more open space facing onto the river. The center portion of the building would be removed to break up the street wall on Kent and provide one of three access points to the park. The remaining building would contain a green roof for more passive open space, along with community facilities, athletic facilities and leasable space for revenue generation within the building(s). The DOT buildings under the bridge would be retained and used in conjunction with local schools for educational purposes such as community boat building, oyster and aquaculture propagation and maker spaces. The central courtyard, a special and unique public space, could house seasonal events, farmers markets and similar activities.
Along – and over – the waterfront, new passive and active open spaces would be created. A ferry pier, at the site of a historic ferry slip, would anchor the south end of the waterfront walkway. Smaller walkways out over the East River would provide access to kayak and boat launches, and connect north to the future waterfront esplanade at the Domino Sugar site.
In all, this proposal would create 2.2 acres of new open space, while retaining 63,000 of enclosed community space within the repurposed DCAS building and DOT buildings. What is now wall of buildings separating the community from the waterfront would become a series of portals to new uses and new experiences. And an important node along the waterfront would be connected to waterfront esplanades to the north and south, bringing our community one step closer to a continuous shore public access from Division Avenue in Williamsburg to Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint – a distance of over 3 miles.