The city must fork over the $20 million needed to finish a Sunset Park meadow officials opened years ago without all of its promised amenities, locals demanded.
“We have such a lack of green space in this community, it makes sense for us to really get on the ball and put pressure on the administration and the Economic Development Corporation,” said Cesar Zuniga, chairman of the local Community Board 7.
The city opened Bush Terminal Piers Park in an obscure, waterfront location behind a Second Avenue pool factory in 2014, after a more than decade-long push from community members.
But the park debuted without several promised features, including a playground, an environmental-education center, a rain garden designed to soak up storm water and prevent flooding, and even basic lighting, according to residents, who claimed the city axed the amenities without any notice.
At the time, reps for the city’s Economic Development Corporation — the agency that owns the parkland between 43rd and 51st streets, which is maintained by the Department of Parks and Recreation — told CB7 members that roughly $2–3 million earmarked for construction of those facilities instead went towards cleaning up the former toxic industrial site, according to the panel’s district manager Jeremy Laufer. But the agency never provided specific answers to questions about the incomplete amenities, Laufer claimed.
An Economic Development Corporation spokesman confirmed that unforeseen issues with toxic soil forced the agency to drain its budget to fund the remediation work, so that the park’s grounds would not contaminate locals when it opened.
“Over the course of the park’s development, unforeseen environmental issues resulted in unexpected project costs,” said Christian Ficara. “The project scope was revised to ensure that the new park would be safe for public recreation.”
Last year, however, the agency sought some $26 million needed to complete green space — but city bean counters only coughed up $6 million for more lighting around the park, according to Laufer, who said the sum surprised many advocates who mistakenly assumed officials would finally fund the long-awaited amenities they already promised the community.
“Last year was the first year we were aware they were asking for this money, and I guess we were a little surprised we didn’t get it,” he said.
And now the civic leaders are going on the offense to get the job done, devoting the March meeting of CB7’s Parks Committee to planning their blitz, which will likely include sending members to Council hearings, meetings with local pols, and organizing a letter-writing campaign after similar tactics helped the panel squash a 2006 plan to cut city funding to Sunset Park High School, according to Laufer.
Getting Bush Terminal Piers Park’s playground built is of utmost importance, according to Zuniga, who said the recently renovated play space within Sunset Park is chronically overcrowded with kids during the summer months.
“It’s a beautiful playground, and I’m really grateful for some of the restoration that’s in place now, but it just seems really unfair,” he said Zuniga. “This neighborhood, it’s bursting at the seems at all levels.”