BY RICH CACCAPPOLO | The Community Board 2 Parks and Waterfront Committee, working with the Parks Department and the Hudson River Park Trust, as well as block associations and neighborhood organizations, and backed by the support of our local elected officials, drove several noteworthy accomplishments in 2012. The committee has great plans in the coming year for continued improvement and expansion of public spaces, for both passive and active uses, in our community.
Ours is a park-starved district. We rank second to last in the city in terms of green space per 1,000 residents. But in the last year, even in this time of significant budget constraints, we were able to improve the quality of these few treasuries we do possess.
Larger initiatives took place at some of our favorite neighborhood locations. The redesigned and rehabilitated Bleecker St. Sitting Area was reopened. Reconstruction of the beloved ballfield at J.J. Walker began and should be completed in June. The third (and final) phase of the renovation of Washington Square Park — including the field house, mounds play area, large dog run and perimeter sidewalks — commenced and is expected to be completed this summer.
Similarly, a long-running project, Adrienne’s Garden at LaGuardia Place — also referred to as “A Garden for the Little Flower,” in honor of Fiorello LaGuardia, after whom the street was named — should soon see the arrival of the remaining play equipment, which is being custom-built based on unique designs created by local schoolchildren. We hope to see Adrienne’s Garden open in April.
In addition, we also worked diligently to reopen as quickly as could be done, the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center — our district’s only indoor rec center — and the all-important playing fields at Pier 40 after they were both closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy flooding.
Our committee also assists with programming public spaces, as demonstrated this year with efforts in Petrosino Square — which featured two temporary art installations with more to follow in 2013 — and on Pier 45, the Christopher St. Pier. Though the pier is managed by the Hudson River Park Trust, we helped recruit art exhibits and public performances that were presented on that wonderful jetty over the water last summer.
In addition, The C.B. 2 Parks and Waterfront Committee spends a significant amount of effort participating in the review of large land-use proposals, and we have had some significant such projects recently, including the St. Vincent’s redevelopment, N.Y.U. core expansion and Hudson Square rezoning.
One such result will come to life in 2013, as we will see the groundbreaking for one of the most significant additions to open space in our neighborhood in memory — the St. Vincent’s Triangle Park. This space will be transformed from a closed, private, locked area into a beautiful public open space, featuring the moving and powerful New York City AIDS Memorial in the northwest corner.
In Hudson Square, where open space is extremely tough to find, we are campaigning for the creation of a new indoor recreation center.
Other initiatives in the coming year include redesign and renovation of DeSalvio Playground, at the corner of Mulberry and Spring Sts., which has been driven by a tremendous, dedicated and energetic group of local residents. Also Father Fagan Park, on the east side of Sixth Ave. at Prince St., is being redesigned. And benches will be installed in three other small parks along Sixth Ave., plus a new comfort station in recently rehabilitated Seravalli Park, on Hudson St. between Gansevoort and Horatio Sts.
Further into the future, we are looking forward to the development of new public open space on top of four water-shaft construction sites, including at Hudson and Clarkson Sts. As the Department of Environmental Protection’s efforts on the shafts wind down, we are pushing for more progress in officially turning these spaces over to the Parks Department to begin the planning and design process.
In addition, it is expected that Duarte Square, at Canal St. and Sixth Ave., will be developed and will include a new park in conjunction with a residential development. Meanwhile, Soho Square, at Spring St. and Sixth Ave., will be renovated by the Hudson Square Connection BID.
On an ongoing basis, we will continue our efforts to encourage Parks to place a greater emphasis on replacement of trees in vacant tree pits. We have seen improvement in some parts of the district, but will strive to get as many empty spaces filled with new trees as possible.
Finally, and very critically, we will continue to work to protect and expand the active playing fields in our neighborhood — including those at Pier 40 — to handle the increasing demand from families in our growing community.
I am sure I speak for all members of our committee when I say that we are aware and appreciative of the beauty of the community in which we are so fortunate to live. We see it as our job and our opportunity not just to protect what exists, but to continue to enhance and effectively expand it through creation of new public spaces.
Caccappolo is chairperson, Community Board 2 Parks and Waterfront Committee