Welcome to The Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Laura Treciokas, Co-Chair of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. FBIP is a community group championing the creation of the 28-acre waterfront park along the East River that was promised to residents after the Williamsburg rezoning in 2005.
Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in and how did you end up there?
Laura Treciokas: I live in Greenpoint about four blocks from the Bushwick Inlet. My first exposure to the neighborhood was about a decade ago when I did the Five Boro Bike Tour. Biking through here I thought what a great waterfront community it was. When my husband and I started looking for a home in 2007 to start our family this is one of the first places we started to look. We bought an old house – it dates back to 1872 – and have been renovating it ever since. It’s really a labor of love and I’m not sure if we’ll ever finish!
BS: Can you talk about the beginnings of FBIP and your involvement with it?
LT: A while back a neighbor of mine who is a founding member of Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning asked if I’d be willing to help get a Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park group up and running. The goal was to educate folks – especially new residents – about the promise made during the 2005 rezoning to build a 28-acre waterfront park around the Bushwick Inlet for our community. That mission has taken on new urgency as the clock ticks down on the Bloomberg Administration who made that promise to us in the first place. So this past fall, a coalition of groups joined with Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, including Neighbors Allied for Good Growth and tenant leaders from the Edge, Northside Piers and 184 Kent to launch the Where’s Our Park campaign.
BS: The massive rezoning of Williamsburg has changed the neighborhood aesthetically and culturally. What was your opinion of the rezoning at the time, and how do you view it in retrospect?
LT: The rezoning in 2005 took place before I moved to the neighborhood. But once I did arrive I realized – as do many of the folks who were involved in the rezoning fight – that the bulk of work to transform our community is going to be an ongoing fight. With tens of thousands of new residents moving in, but very little new infrastructure to support them, we are faced with a cart before the horse situation and now we have to figure out how to fix it. We must insure the city adds all the services needed to meet the demands of these new residents – especially open space. This community was already underserved by parks and open space and that is only getting worse as new residents join us.
After the jump, why North Brooklyn suffers from underfunded parks, what’s next for the campaign, and what’s great about Greenpoint…
BS: North Brooklyn already suffers from underfunded parks, not to mention the parkland yet to be delivered. Why do you think that’s so in North Brooklyn, while areas like Brooklyn Bridge Park are really growing?
LT: The neighborhoods surrounding Brooklyn Bridge Park have been trying to get their big park built for much longer–about 30 years longer! Also those are areas that have been densely populated for many decades now, while North Brooklyn has only entered that level of density over the past five to ten years. The City knew that the rezoning would create a population surge and that‘s why they promised the parkland and other infrastructure as part of the deal. Unfortunately, until the rezoning in 2005 made the area almost entirely residential and much less industrial, the attention paid to this corner of Brooklyn by the City was mostly negative: a waste water treatment plant, truck routes and garbage transfer stations were all sited here. The rezoning was a kind of starting gun for urgent improvement, and we have a lot more work ahead of us if we are going to manage this population explosion well. A strong and vibrant community of civic activists have fought for parkland and other infrastructure in North Brooklyn for years, and the fight must now continue with the addition of newcomers like me.
BS: What’s next for the Where’s Our Park campaign?
LT: We launched the campaign just a few months ago and already the response has been amazing. Thousands of people have visited the Where’s Our Park website and hundreds have signed up to volunteer. As people learn about the campaign they realize its as much a social justice issue as a neighborhood issue. We have more events planned in the coming year to raise awareness and we’ll continue to work with our local elected officials – Councilman Steve Levin, Assemblyman Joe Lentol, Senator Dan Squadron and Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez who have already been incredibly supportive. Stay tuned!
BS: Finally your favorites: fave BK neighborhood, favorite BK development or property, and favorite BK public space.
LT: Well of course my favorite BK neighborhood is Greenpoint. We’re such a place of contrasts – hipsters, young families and residents who’ve been here since they were children and just the nicest most interesting people around. I guess my favorite BK development or property are the new waterfront piers – both India Street and North 5th. They give us really the only access we currently have to our own waterfront and the East River Ferry is such an amazing way to travel into Manhattan – rain or shine! And while I have high hopes for seeing all 28 acres of Bushwick Inlet Park become a reality, my favorite BK public space for now is McCarren Park. It’s over-loved for sure but you can’t beat it for people watching on a summer night – it’s like a carnival.