Green spaces are in need of green, locals tell C.B. 3



BY HEATHER DUBIN  |  Parks, community gardens and after-school programs were hot topics at this week’s Community Board 3 budget priorities hearing.

About eight people joined a few community board members at C.B. 3’s office on E. Fourth St. on Tuesday evening to request budget priorities for the fiscal year ahead. Local residents and organizations of the East Village / Lower East Side district were encouraged to attend the hearing to share their thoughts on community issues in need of financial assistance. A comprehensive list of programs and parks that require financing will be submitted to city agencies by C.B. 3 as capital and expense budget priorities.

Linda Jones, co-chairperson of C.B. 3’s Land Use, Zoning, Public and Private Housing Committee, discussed needed improvements for Seward Park. She said she wants more funding to support maintenance staff in the park, a renovation of the basketball courts and restoration of the historic bathroom, along with a park house renovation. Organizations affiliated with this request are the Hester Street Collaborative and Friends of Seward Park.

Bill LoSasso, C.B. 3 treasurer, advocated for the cultural garden on Ninth St. and Avenue C.

“Post-Sandy, lots of gardens in the neighborhood were destroyed by flooding and lost soil,” he said. LoSasso said he would like to see more support from the Parks Department for community gardens.

Gigi Li, C.B. 3 chairperson, asked Susan Stetzer, the board’s district manager, if they could put this issue on the Parks Committee agenda, and Stetzer agreed it was a “good idea.”

Jennifer Vallone, director of Project Home at University Settlement, advocated that the city should fully fund after-school programs in the neighborhood and more youth services.

“We need more sports, academic support and jobs,” she said.

Ayo Harrington, who lives on E. Fourth St. and has been an East Village resident since 1966, brought up drug trafficking in her area.

“I saw three people shooting up in broad daylight,” she said. “And when you ask them to leave, they say, ‘Just give me a minute.’ ”

Harrington recognized this behavior from the past when Alphabet City was a known drug haven. She is concerned this is happening now — and at 2 p.m. across the street from a public school. Calls have been made to 911 and 311. Stetzer said she would look into it, and as a budget priority, saying it is a youth issue.

Harrington also addressed community gardens and how there is no infrastructure support for them.

“We don’t get soil, water or lighting,” she said. Harrington also pointed out that she is finding needles in her community garden, and that lighting at night is a matter of safety.

Harrington announced the LUNGS (Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens) festival this weekend at 32 community gardens in the East Village. There will be jazz, theater and dance companies.

Alysha Lewis-Coleman questioned the amount of money allotted to food pantries in the  neighborhood. She was concerned with food stamps, childhood obesity and undernourished seniors. Stetzer informed her that while these are relevant issues, they are not budget requests the board can make.

K Webster, who lives on the Bowery, represented herself and the Roosevelt Park Community Coalition. She said she would like the return of the Stanton St. building in Sarah D. Roosevelt Park to public use, which she said could serve many purposes, including youth programs.

Webster also said the park’s ball fields and soccer fields are ripped up and worn down, and she was against Nike and other corporations putting their name on the fields.

On another issue, Webster would like to see funding from the Chinatown and Lower East Side business improvement districts for BigBelly solar-powered trash compactor cans to potentially cut down on rat traffic.