On Tuesday, August 15, NYC Parks Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Marty Maher, along with elected officials, celebrated the official beginning of construction of the new St. Mary’s Park.
The Carroll Gardens park had been closed since 2009 because of MTA work on the subway track above.
“Parks are here to celebrate, and the community has a lot to celebrate with the start of this project,” Maher said at the ceremony. “About a year from now, they will have a lot to celebrate with the end of this project.”
The park is located at the intersection of Smith, Huntington, Nelson and Luquer Streets, and it borders the neighborhoods of Red Hook, Gowanus and Carroll Gardens. Brad Lander, who represents Carroll Gardens and Gowanus on the City Council, said that many kids who have grown up recently in the area have not been able to utilize this playground.
“Both of these sites had a playground on them, but most of the kids that grew up in this neighborhood in recent years don’t have any recollection of that,” Lander said. “That was caused by the MTA, who did the reconstruction of the Culver L, and they had to demolish the playgrounds that existed on this site.”
According to Lander, at the time the MTA said they would allocate money to fix the park—but that didn’t come to fruition.
“We learned that fixing it up again meant allocating $850,000, except the cost of renovating most of the playground in a compelling way turned out to be about triple that,” Lander said.
This playground space is named for the nearby St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church on Court Street.
In the process of building this renovated new park, Lander’s office worked with the Parks Department, the community board and the Borough President to get the money to build both parks with the community’s interest in mind.
Community residents, organized by Paige Bellenbaum and other neighborhood leaders, were integral in working with the Parks Department to design the plans for the park. Maher stressed how important it was that the community’s input went into this park and how this park can be a real improvement for the area.
“Any park or playground or courts or sitting area is a huge community asset,” Maher said. “That is why our commissioner and our council member feels it so important to engage the community in design.”
“It was important to the community to have a hands-on role in helping to design both of the playgrounds,” Lander added. Lander remarked that young kids, older kids, and seniors wanted places to sit and places to play. The reconstruction of the playground will include brand new ADA accessible play equipment for toddlers as well as young and older children. In addition, there will be a new safety surface with spray showers, net climbers, new tables and chairs, permeable pavers to manage storm waters, and planting beds.
The park that the ribbon cutting took place in is set to open in the spring of 2018. Other speakers at the event were New York State Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, CB6 chair of the environmental protection committee Mark Shames, and Andrea Parker, who is the executive director of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy.
Across Nelson Street is an additional site that will be developed separately that was not part of the ribbon cutting. Lander, along with the Borough President, were able to secure $1.35 million for construction of that site which will include a skating area, a multi-use synthetic turf field, adult fitness equipment, basketball courts, and a walking track. Construction is slated to begin in the fall for the adjacent site and it wasn’t announced when it is anticipated to be finished.
Lander connected the building of this park to the overall growth of the Gowanus area. “We are thinking about the future of Gowanus and how we grow,” Lander said. “We are right across from the public site where Buddy Scotto has been working for many years to put up vibrant mixed use space with affordable housing instead of it being a big vacant lot.”
Lander added that they are building towards a new mixed use community that will have more jobs and housing, and that will also include principles of sustainability.
Instead of having chain link fences and asphalt, as was common in the 1950s when St. Mary’s Park was originally built, this new park will be a lot more modern and aesthetically pleasing.
According to the Parks Commissioner, there will be more trees in the park, more color in the park and there will be safe surfaces. There will also not be “prison looking” fences.