Promises, promises on Bushwick Inlet Park

As the mother of a rain-or-shine soccer player, I spend more time at Bushwick Inlet Park’s heavily trafficked youth soccer field than anywhere other than my apartment or my office.

It’s been wild and woolly out there recently. But in mild weather, the view of the East River and the Empire State Building makes this spot potentially one of the city’s most charming neighborhood green spaces.

Sadly, emphasis must be placed on the word “potentially.” Ten years ago, the city promised to develop the site into a 28-acre waterfront park. For former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the idea made political sense: it would appease Greenpoint-Williamsburg residents who were angered by the development of luxury high-rise buildings along Kent Avenue, while also pleasing developers by increasing the value of the area.

The park is nine acres, far short of the promised 28 acres. Neighbors are angry. Their dissatisfaction came to a head recently after a warehouse burned in one of the neighboring lots that the city was supposed to acquire and develop as parkland. Now, the site is a dangerous, reeking eyesore. I tried to get close to photograph it last week and was (sensibly) prevented by firefighters and police guarding the burned property.

The problem is that city officials moved too slowly to acquire the land for the promised park, and in the intervening years, the value of the land has exploded. Now, the city says it doesn’t have the funds to buy the parcel, the Village Voice reports. The Bloomberg administration should have anticipated this problem, and should have bought the property back in 2005.

But that doesn’t mean Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is off the hook for the city’s past promises. The park’s neighbors are right to be upset. The de Blasio administration should move quickly to purchase the lots and finish the park.

To avoid this problem again, the city should reconsider its approach to such agreements. Parks are often offered to placate residents upset about new development. Developers should be forced to finance public benefits like parks upfront, before they are permitted to build.

Liza Featherstone lives and writes in Clinton Hill.