New York City Planning Commission Public Hearing on Greenpoint-Williamsburg Rezoning

NYC College of Technology, Klitgord Auditorium, 285 Jay Street

Testimony of Noah Budnick, Projects Director for Transportation Alternatives

Good morning, my name is Noah Budnick. I’m Projects Director for Transportation Alternatives, New York City’s advocates for bicyclists, pedestrians, greenways and car-free parks.

The Greenpoint–Williamsburg Rezoning is a once in a generation opportunity to improve and increase the quality and quantity of open space, parks and greenways in North Brooklyn.

And, North Brooklynites need more park space, right now. And, in the future, when the development in the plan is built out, there will be more North Brooklynites, and there will be an even more dire need for park and open space. To meet current and future needs, the Greenpoint—Williamsburg Rezoning plan must:

1) Include new park space sufficient to bring the neighborhoods on par with the New York City Community Board average for park space per capita, based on the future build out and population increase of the rezoned areas, and

2) Dedicate sufficient space and create a financing plan to build and operate a waterfront park and greenway on par with Hudson River Park on Manhattan’s Westside: a park and biking and walking path that is publicly accessible, continuous and built immediately, not piecemeal.

The importance of parks and greenways in any New York City neighborhood cannot be understated. In a city where most people do not have backyards, City parks and biking and walking paths are where we go for relaxation, recreation and transportation. They make urban life more bearable and neighborhoods more desirable places to live, work, shop and visit.

So, in these North Brooklyn neighborhoods that are already underserved by park and open space, this rezoning plan, this opportunity to make more and better parks, must meet current and future community needs for parks, open space and biking and walking paths and equitably distribute this space throughout Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

Currently, the amount of parks and open space in North Brooklyn is woefully inadequate. The residents of Brooklyn’s Community Board 1 suffer from the least per capita park and open space of any neighborhoods in New York City. According to Community Board 1’s statement on the proposed rezoning plan, the proposed zoning does not provide enough parks space to meet the City’s own standards for open space per capita ratio, nor will the plan provide enough parks and open space to meet the number of people living in the neighborhood if the plan is built out.

The rezoning must include more parks and open space.

The Greenpoint–Williamsburg Rezoning plan’s parks and biking and walking paths form the northern leg of the future Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a 14-mile car-free path that will run from Greenpoint to Sunset Park. This is a key piece of the City’s greenway network—a 350-mile system of biking and walking paths throughout the Five Boroughs. The Greenpoint and Williamsburg section of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway will be a heavily used transportation and recreation corridor. It will make safe, traffic-free walking and biking connections between neighborhoods that are already underserved by transit and facing increased car and truck traffic on their local streets. The waterfront greenway will connect to the Pulaski Bridge, future greenways along the Queens waterfront, the Williamsburg Bridge and the many neighborhoods in between (already long-popular with cyclists) that are destined to become more populous. When built, the waterfront biking, walking jogging, strolling and skating path will be instantly popular with exercise enthusiasts, commuters and anyone seeking a respite from the rush of urban streets.

The Greenpoint—Williamsburg Rezoning and Waterfront Access Plan must ensure that the entire waterfront park and greenway is fully open and conveniently accessible to the public, remains continuously open to the public without any closure or restriction by private developers or landowners and provides sufficient space for the myriad of users, fast and slow, young and old, on wheel and on foot, to use it safely.

Hudson River Park and its car-free greenway path is the standard towards which North Brooklyn’s waterfront parks and greenway should strive. The continuity of the park is protected by law, and the greenway allows round-the-clock access at multiple locations. Where possible, the Route 9A/Hudson River Greenway’s bicycle- and skater-only path is 16-feet wide and has an adjacent 8 to 10-foot wide pedestrian-only path.

The greenway portion of North Brooklyn’s new waterfront park must be at least 16-feet wide. This new park and greenway will be extremely popular with walkers, bikers and skaters of all ages. The combination of the proposed increase in residential density, the existing lack of park space, demographics and the existing popularity of cycling, will guarantee thousands of people flocking to this park and greenway on nice days.

If the greenway is less than 16-feet wide, it will become overcrowded and suffer from chronic bicyclist-pedestrian conflicts. When greenway paths are overcrowded conditions became hazardous and collisions too frequent. This is often the case on the Hudson River Greenway during warm months, when the biking, walking and skating path is so well used that it becomes dangerous, as people compete for impossibly little space. Greenpoint and Williamsburg’s waterfront parks and greenway will attract comparable numbers of people and must provide sufficient space for them to relax, recreate and travel through the parks.

This past spring, Transportation Alternatives, the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, the New York League of Conservation Voters, the Regional Plan Association, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the Waterfront Park Coalition wrote to the Department of City Planning, urging the agency to ensure that the greenway path in the Greenpoint—Williamsburg Rezoning and Waterfront Access Plan follow city and national standards that recommend 16-foot wide shared use greenway paths for urban areas. New York City’s official Bicycle Master Plan, produced by the Departments of City Planning and Transportation, recommends that high volume shared use greenway paths in New York City be at least 16-feet wide and recommends that paths have a two-foot wide shoulder on each side to provide adequate clearance from lateral obstructions. I urge the City Planning Commission to also heed these recommendations.

Last, but not least, this waterfront park and greenway should be built immediately, not in segments and the new zoning should allow for a financing plan that allows for this construction to take place in a timely manner. And, given the high level of public participation to date, the design and management of all public spaces should continue to be subject to public oversight. The management and programming of privately built waterfront parks and greenway paths should be coordinated with existing and proposed city parks.

Thank you for listening, to the needs of North Brooklynites that must be addressed in the Greenpoint—Williamsburg Rezoning and Waterfront Access Plans. It’s likely that you’ve already heard many of recommendations from other organizations, and that you’ll hear them a few more times. You’ll hear them from people who live and work in North Brooklyn, from neighborhood associations and local advocates, from elected officials and from the Community Board:

It is our hope that the final zoning plan reflects these community needs and provides adequate parks, open space and greenways to maintain a high quality of life for current and future residents and businesses.

Thank you.

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