Information about this lot
A good first step is to call Mr. Cona and ask about DEP's plans for the lot. Here are some tips for your call: http://596acres.org/en/resources/advocacy-resources/
You might also want to reach out to Sarah Pecker, who is in charge of DEP's community garden agreements: (718) 595-5487. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Grand St. lot has space for a tree, but Zervos didn’t make any promises. There would be a drinking fountain and maybe seating.“
Great news! Money has been set aside to bring a park to this site that was promised decades ago! Congratulations on your successful advocacy!
The Village and SoHo Will Get New Parks at Long-Promised Sites, City Says
By Danielle Tcholakian | October 7, 2016 5:08pm | Updated on October 9, 2016 2:08pm
HUDSON SQUARE — In a new twist in the ongoing battle over the Elizabeth Street Garden, the city is now promising to make good on a decades-old promise to turn three city-controlled vacant lots in the Village and SoHo into public parks.
The lots — one on Hudson Street between Clarkson and West Houston streets, another on Grand and Lafayette streets and the third on East Fourth Street and Bowery — were turned over to the Department of Environmental Preservation in the 1990s for work on shafts connected to the massive underground network of tunnels that supply the city's drinking water.
As a condition of DEP's taking control of the sites, agreements were struck in writing that promised that when the agency finished the work on the shafts, the lots would be turned into public parks.
But as DNAinfo New York reported late last year, DEP attempted to renege on those deals, and wanted to just leave the lots vacant and erect high fences around them.
When the city intensified its efforts to build affordable senior housing where the Elizabeth Street Garden currently sits, the local community board seized on the Hudson Street lot as an alternative site for affordable housing.
City officials have said they are considering building housing there, but in addition, not as an alternative, to Elizabeth Street.
Now the city is committing to allocate $3 million to help build three new parks on the DEP lots, $1 million per park, including a 11,250-square-foot one at Hudson and West Houston streets.
“As we continue to work to find new and creative ways to keep New York affordable and livable, this administration is committed to increasing public open space," City Hall spokeswoman Melissa Grace said. "Today, and following through on a decades old promise, we are delighted to announce we will be building three new public parks in Community Board 2.”
The commitment was first reported by The Villager.
The Hudson Street site is about 25,000 square feet, however, so the city may still build affordable housing on the remainder of the lot, Grace said.
Because DEP will continue to need access to the underground infrastructure below the lots, the parks will be for passive recreation only, Grace said — meaning no ball fields or playground equipment.
Grace said that in the event that DEP needs to access the shafts in an emergency, time would be of the essence, and DEP officials were concerned about needing to break through large or heavy structures such as playground equipment.
Under the agreements signed in the 1990s, DEP had said they would only need 4,000 square feet of the parks to remain clear of any structures so they could access the shafts.
The park at Grand and Lafayette streets will span 12,500 square feet, according to Grace, and the East Fourth Street and Bowery site will measure 9,750 square feet.
DEP and the city's Department of Parks and Recreation will enter into a license agreement regarding the use and maintenance of the aboveground space at each site, Grace said.
The parks will be created by the Parks Department, though the $3 million in funding is being providing by DEP.
DEP has committed to working with the Parks Department and the community on the design of the spaces, Grace said, which will undergo a community review process including CB 2, the City Council representative for each site and the Public Design Commission.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission will also be involved with the site on Grand and Lafayette streets because it lies in a historic district.
The Dec 2 CB2 resolution contains the following language relevant to this site:
d) The Grand Lafayette site (30b) is located beneath a corner lot extending 110 feet along the north side of Grand Street and 130 feet along the west side of Lafayette Street. The valve chamber and associated ventilation tubes and access hatches are on the north side of the lot with connections to the mains extending within the lot to the south. Numerous manholes are scattered throughout the lot and on the sidewalk and street bed on Grand Street. The site is now a gravel lot, vacant and trash strewn on the north side, and still filled with construction materials and debris on the south, all surrounded with a temporary construction fence.
Specific considerations regarding Grand Lafayette site (30b) are as follows:
a) As affirmed in the City Planning Commission resolution of April 14, 2004, approving the use of this site, DEP stated a requirement to retain a 4,000 square foot access easement while allowing the remaining 8,500 square feet to be used for public open space.
b) The CPC resolution also affirmed DEP’s commitment to provide funding of $400,000 through the “percent for art” program to improve the open space.
c) DEP now proposes to place truck parking and storage at this site with the whole site surrounded by a high fence.
d) CB2 and Borough President support for the use of this site were based on the benefits to be provided by the promised open space. Clearly, both would have judged a large vacant lot used for truck parking and storage and surrounded by a high fence as detrimental to neighborhood character had that been presented as a future condition in the ULURP application.
e) Public access areas would be limited to a few seating alcoves with potted trees.
f) Even with “drivable surfaces”, with a creative approach this space can be a significant contributor to the neighborhood including small areas of green space, sitting areas, and open play space for young children.
Therefore it is resolved that CB 2:
Congratulates DEP on its work on the extraordinary undertaking of Water Tunnel No. 3, essential to protecting our city’s water supply.
Urges DEP to stand behind its prior commitments and withdraw its recent detrimental proposals for the sites in CB2.
Urges DEP to stand behind its prior commitments to turn the sites over to the Parks Department or return them to DCAS until future use is decided.
Urges DEP to work diligently with other agencies, elected officials, and CB2, to assure the best uses of these sites to preserve and enhance neighborhood character in the spirit of these commitments.
Reiterates its 18-year goal for public open spaces be built and maintained for public use on all three sites following a design process that incorporates community input and review to the fullest extent.
There can be no loss of promised open space without designation of new open space in the district.
Requests that even where “drivable” surfaces are required, that these be creatively designed to be attractive and allow for flood water retention.
Requests that the appropriate Percent For Art Program funds based on project costs for all four sites in CB2, be made available for development of public open space at these sites.
City Reneges on Promised Public Parks in Greenwich Village, Board Says
By Danielle Tcholakian | December 2, 2015
WEST VILLAGE — The city is reneging on a decades-old promise to provide Greenwich Village and SoHo residents with three new public parks while insisting on building affordable housing on a beloved neighborhood garden, DNAinfo New York has learned.
Three large construction sites — at Houston and Hudson streets, on East 4th Street and at Lafayette and Grand streets — that are home to shafts connected to the city's massive underground drinking water tunnel project were supposed to be eventually become public parks under agreements struck in the late 1990s.
The Department of Environmental Protection promised back then to turn over the land for the parks during the public land-use review process, known as ULURP.
But now the city is telling the local community board they're not getting their parks when the project concludes, with no real explanation, Community Board 2 chair Tobi Bergman said.
"This is what's called arbitrary and capricious," Bergman said. "Government cannot make a process that includes public review, community boards, the borough president and the City Council, and then the agency reverses it without so much as a comment, just by announcing it."
Most frustrating of all, Bergman said, the DEP just wants to leave the lots vacant and erect a high fence around them. Vacant lots create blight and make neighborhoods less safe, he said.
"There's nothing more destructive to the neighborhood than a permanent vacant lot with a high fence around it," Bergman said. "If someone had said that ultimately that was going to be the appearance of these community sites, there would have been vigorous community opposition."
The parks issue was raised when the board ramped up its fight against the city's push to raze the Elizabeth Street Garden, a neighborhood gathering place beloved by many, and build affordable senior housing on top of it.
Because the land the DEP is using for the shafts was private property before the city "acquired" it, the ULURP process was required.
ULURP documents reviewed by DNAinfo New York show the community board and the Manhattan Borough President at that time, C. Virginia Fields, gave their approval for the DEP projects only if the sites are turned into public open space for the community.
The 1999 City Planning Commission report approving the first and largest site, on Hudson and Houston streets, includes a promise from DEP to turn the lot over to the Parks Department once construction finishes.
"Due to the significant interest by the community and the Department of Parks and Recreation in having the site become open space/parkland after construction, the applicants have committed to converting the site into a public park after completion of the shaft project," the report said.
Bergman, who was involved in the negotiations back then, said there was actually a smaller site on Leroy Street that was available to DEP, but the agency opted for this larger site, with the community's approval, because the Parks Department expressed an interest in having it officially mapped as parkland.
"It's just a total collapse of legitimate process and a reneging of commitment," Bergman said.
Bergman said when the agency first said the areas had to be closed off to the public, they blamed it on 9/11.
"When that obviously wasn't the case, because many of the sites are on the street level with cars parked right next to it, they changed and said it was for maintenance reasons," Bergman said.
The agency had long said it would need need "a drivable surface with no obstructions" for monthly maintenance checks on the shaft, Bergman said, but "never said that it was exclusive for them."
Bergman pointed out that one of their finished shaft sites already has been turned into a public sitting area by the Holland Tunnel exit ramp, with "no means of security [and] no special access requirements."
The two other site acquisitions were approved by the City Planning Commission in 2001 and 2003.
According to a 2003 commission report for the Lafayette and Grand streets site, two DEP officials said at a public meeting that the agency could either craft a memorandum of understanding with a community group that would develop the site for open space, or could transfer the space to the Parks Department.
“In this instance, DEP intends to acquire the site and work with a community group following completion of construction so it may eventually be used as open space,” the report reads.
DEP committed to contributing at least $400,000 to the “Percent for Art” Program, administered by the Department of Cultural Affairs.
“The ‘Percent for Art’ Program has been used previously to fund artist who develop community gardens as art and it is possible that a similar arrangement could be the set up for Shaft 30B," the CPC report says.
But it appears the City Planning Commission never actually held DEP to those promises at either of these sites.
Both commission reports end with DEP letters that said while the agency supported forming a committee to discuss future plans for the site it would not commit to the parks "to avoid any future potential problems that could arise."
DEP did not respond to inquiries from DNAinfo New York for more than three months, but after City Hall officials intervened, a spokesman, who refused to be named, said, "DEP is involved in ongoing discussions with the community board and the council members regarding the future use of the three water tunnel shaft sites."
Bergman said the agency is trying to meet with the board regarding the sites' fences because they'll need the approval of the Public Design Commission, which generally takes input from the board, to proceed.
CB 2 is refusing to meet with the agency until the board meets on the issue.
"I like the guys, I think they work hard, I think what they've done is an astounding accomplishment," said Rich Caccapolo, the chair of CB 2's Parks Committee, speaking of the DEP's work on the water tunnels. "We just want to make sure that the most accessible space is best used for the community."