City Parks Department to reopen Brooklyn park in July

The padlocked gate of 50 Kent Ave. (Photo by Kevin Duggan)

They’re giving the green light!

The Parks Department will reopen a closed park at 50 Kent Ave. in July for four days each week this summer, bowing to a petition from locals who demanded the city unchain the overgrown greenspace at the Williamsburg waterfront, according to an agency spokesperson.

“We are happy to share that 50 Kent will open this summer from July 9 through Labor Day Weekend every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am–6 pm,” said Anessa Hodgson in a statement.

Staff will be onsite at the lawn between N. 11th and N. 12th streets to enforce social distancing while asking all visitors wear face coverings amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the official said. 

One local lawn steward said it was “great” to see the city open the park’s gates, which comes as Brooklynites search for adequate outdoor space to get some fresh air during the pandemic. 

“Very grateful that the parks and the city are going to do that,” said Steve Chesler, a co-chair of the volunteer group Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. “I understand with all the constraints, that’s great they’re doing that.”

Locals previously pushed Parks to unlock the 1.8-acre grassy lot at local community meetings and through an online petition which garnered more than 350 signatures, asking officials to give northern Brooklynites more space amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“People are leaving the city because there’s no open space here, it’s really dire times, and to see this greenspace that’s just sitting there locked off… it’s rough” said T. Willis Elkins at a June 3 digital Community Board 1 meeting.

Borough Parks Commissioner Marty Maher said at the virtual meeting that the agency was hamstrung by budget freezes and large-scale impending cuts to the Department ahead of the city’s annual fiscal budget, which Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council are working out until the end of June. 

Maher added that the Mayor’s budget office was not processing funds from private entities, like local conservancies which give money to the agency to help with the upkeep of meadows, hire staff to monitor social distancing, and install porta potties.

The greenspace guru said that oversight was necessary so that people didn’t destroy the grass by allowing dogs on it or by turning it into a soccer field, because the lawn acts as part of the remedy National Grid installed when cleaning up the polluted former gas plant that used to reside there.

In her statement, Hodgson clarified on June 15 that officials “may have misspoken” about being able to use those outside funds, and that they would look into whether they could do that after all.

Chesler was hopeful that cutting this red tape might allow local groups to fund more activities like those that have taken place there in the past, such as outdoor movie screenings and theater performances.

“We’ll see how it goes, how the crowds are like,” he said.

This story first appeared on brooklynpaper.com.