A man who was hungry for parks


An article by John Bayles in last week’s Downtown Express entitled “CaVaLa No More; Park renamed for local legend,” told how the small park between Canal, Varick, and Laight Streets had been re-christened Albert Capsouto Park.

Capsouto, who died in January of a brain tumor, was a co-owner of Capsouto Freres restaurant and a long-time community advocate. He served on Community Board 1 for nearly 20 years, championed assistance for small businesses in the aftermath of 9/11, and pressed for the completion of Hudson River Park. And he was also an advocate for the park that would eventually be named for him, as Deborah Lynn Blumberg reported in a 2004 article entitled “Landscape group presents park plan for Varick triangle.”

Blumberg reported that the Parks Department had intended to convert what was then a concrete lot into a park when the events of September 11 put the plans on hold. Later, a professional organization called the American Landscape Contractors Association offered to build the park along with the Parks Department as a gift to Downtown. At the time of the article, the park’s proposed name was Renaissance Park.

Speaking in his capacity as chair of C.B.1’s Tribeca committee, Capsouto said, “We’re just so hungry for a park down here. This is a terrible area for pedestrians, and we want to get it fixed up.”

In last week’s article, Bayles wrote, “An early design of the waterfall that now exists in the park was said to symbolize tears streaming down a face and was to serve as a memorial to 9/11.” But in the earlier article, a spokesperson for the American Landscape Contractors said, “The association wanted to do something after 9/11, but with a sensitivity that people living in the area might want something more uplifting and not necessarily associated with remembering 9/11.”

At the renaming ceremony, former C.B.1 chair Madelyn Wils was quoted as saying, “Albert said, ‘We are not a community that wants to look back.’ This park is Albert.”

— compiled by Andrea Riquier