7. Create, improve upon, maximize, and connect public recreational sites and open space
Guaranteeing Infrastructure Investments > Recommendations

The following recommended improvements to meet open space needs in the community could also contribute to area-wide storm water management goals by incorporating green infrastructure and special design features.

Salt Lot

The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy (GCC) should build on their strong relationships to create composting and waterfront access at the Salt Lot site, addressing the community vision for this location. This vision includes enhanced environmental education facilities and community-operated and stewarded “soft edges” of vegetative habitat along the canal.

 

Canal access from the Salt Lot site Photo Credit: GLAM (Gowanus Low Altitude Mapping), Gowanus Canal Conservancy
Canal access from the Salt Lot site
Photo Credit: GLAM (Gowanus Low Altitude Mapping), Gowanus Canal Conservancy

 

Renovate and revive neighborhood parks

Over the years there have been a total of four public parks in the Gowanus neighborhood: Thomas Green Playground (with the adjoining Douglass-Degraw Pool), Ennis Playground, St. Mary’s Park, and Under-the-Tracks Fran Brady Playground. Of those four, two are currently closed, and the other two are in need of upgrades. Capital investments must be prioritized for these open spaces, and a thoughtful plan developed to connect them to the Gowanus Greenscape (see below).

Ennis Playground is located midblock between 2nd and 3rd Avenues and 11th and 12th Streets. The playground includes play equipment, basketball courts, and a seating area, as well as plantings maintained by volunteers. The Parks Department has committed to engaging in a community visioning session for renovations to Ennis Playground in early 2015.

Thomas Green Playground is bounded by Nevins Street, Douglass Street, 3rd Avenue, and Degraw Street. The playground includes play equipment, picnic tables, two basketball courts, and four handball courts. During the summer months, adjoining outdoor Douglass and Degraw “Double D” Pool is well-used by families and children. This location has been put forth as a potential site for one of two retention tanks required by the U.S. EPA as part of the Superfund remedy. In the event of temporary closure, commitments must be secured for continued access to open space.

St. Mary’s Park and Under-the-Tracks Playground are both located below the Culver Viaduct, which carries the F and G subway trains from Carroll Gardens, through Gowanus, to Park Slope. St. Mary’s Park is divided into two sections. The first is located on the west side of Smith Street between Luquer and Huntington Streets, and the second is on the west side of Smith Street between Huntington and Nelson Streets. Under-the-Tracks Playground is located between 9th and 10th Streets, and 2nd and 3rd Avenues.

St. Mary’s Park was closed to the public at the start of the MTA’s (still ongoing) renovation of the Culver Viaduct. Following the reopening of the Smith-9th Street F/G subway station in 2013, the Parks Department removed the playground equipment from St. Mary’s Park. The Parks Department will be meeting with Brooklyn Community Board 6 and other stakeholders to discuss the existing plans for renovation and reopening of both sections in the coming weeks.

Under-the-Tracks Playground served as a playground for many years, but is not mapped parkland. In 2009, the Parks Department terminated an easement agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in advance of the Culver Viaduct reconstruction project, and the former playground remains closed to the public today. Working together with the MTA, the community should explore ways to revive access to this public space.

Create a Gowanus Greenscape, a network of green nodes and paths

In the vision articulated for the Gowanus Greenscape, art, culture, history, and environmental science are incorporated into the design and signage of a network of paths and destinations.1)”Gowanus Greenscape” builds on ideas developed by the Gowanus Canal Conservancy and Susannah Drake of dlandstudios.  Storm water management features are prevalent and the spaces at the end of streets that lead to the Canal are maximized as destinations. Recreational elements, including features to support boating, will be incorporated. The Greenscape will be woven into and connect with existing parks through safe pedestrian, cycling, and boating infrastructure.

 

Under-utilized canal-end street that could be transformed by the Gowanus Greenscape Photo Credit: Pratt Center

Under-utilized canal-end street that could be transformed by the Gowanus Greenscape
Photo Credit: Pratt Center

 

Formulate a Canal access plan

A waterfront access plan that addresses Gowanus’ specific needs should be crafted through a DCP-led process that engages relevant agencies, landowners, tenants, and community representatives. Such a plan would support environmental restoration where possible and ensure contextually appropriate waterfront access.

Elements of such a plan would include2)Many of these ideas were articulated through the New York State Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) Step II Nomination study for Gowanus, awarded to Friends of Community Board 6 and conducted by a technical team lead by Starr Whitehouse.:

+ Promoting increased maritime movement of people and goods;

+ Helping waterfront property owners take advantage of the opportunity to upgrade bulkheads in concert with the EPA’s cleanup process;

+ Incentivizing and supporting manufacturing uses to create public access where possible, without placing undue burdens upon them. When new canal-front buildings are developed (in particular, where new FAR is allowed, whether manufacturing, commercial or residential), the City’s waterfront open space and access requirements must be met. However, it must be possible for manufacturing property owners to renovate their buildings (as several were forced to do by Superstorm Sandy) without triggering new waterfront access requirements;

+ Ensuring that use-changes that trigger waterfront regulations have active ground floors and restrict parking at grade along the canal.

 

References   [ + ]

1. ”Gowanus Greenscape” builds on ideas developed by the Gowanus Canal Conservancy and Susannah Drake of dlandstudios.
2. Many of these ideas were articulated through the New York State Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) Step II Nomination study for Gowanus, awarded to Friends of Community Board 6 and conducted by a technical team lead by Starr Whitehouse.