May 12, 2015 By Christian Murray
The expansion of Hunters Point South Park has been years in the making yet Long Island City residents have been ignored during the decision-making process.
The city has denied residents with any real opportunity to share their concerns or recommendations as to the design of the final phase of the waterfront park, according to several Community Board 2 members.
The Economic Development Corp., which is in charge of the design and construction of the park, presented its final plans at the Community Board 2 monthly meeting last week.
Philip Strum, vice president of the capital program for EDC, told the board that construction would begin this summer with a completion date of about 2018. He sought a letter of support from the community board.
However, Pat O’Brien, chairman of Community Board 2, provided anything but support in terms of how the EDC had dealt with the public. While the board had yet to evaluate the plans, O’Brien took exception at the way the EDC had worked with the community.
O’Brien said that the EDC had not discussed its waterfront park plans with Community Board 2 since 2009. Furthermore, those discussions were largely focused on the first phase that was completed in August 2013. He said that the last time the board and the EDC discussed the second–and final- phase was in 2009 and that was in very broad terms.
“We are now being presented with something after the fact,” O’Brien said, given the design is essentially complete and construction is set to begin late summer.
However, Strum said that the plans for phase 2 have remained unchanged since 2009.
While true, O’Brien said that a great deal has changed in Hunters Point in the past six years. He said that residents might want the design tweaked based on their knowledge of living in the area and/or going to the park. He said that it was unfortunate EDC didn’t consult with the very people who live in the area.
“There is so much we could have offered and could have recommended,” O’Brien said, who argued that the community should have been consulted in the early stages of the phase 2 design.
“This process is opaque, not even close to transparent,” O’Brien told Strum at last week’s meeting.
O’Brien said that the board had not issued its letter of support yet since it had not had time to fully review the plans.
However, in evaluating the plans, the board is caught in a tight spot. O’Brien said if the board recommends modifications then there would be a need to redesign some of the components—which would add costs– and potentially delay when the project gets started.
The park designer, who spoke at the CB2 meeting, said the second phase of the park will provide space for people to take a stroll and enjoy nature (click for details). Phase one was designed as an active space—with playgrounds, basketball courts, a dog run and the oval.
“The plans may well be excellent,” O’Brien said. “Our issue doesn’t deal so much with the plans but the process.”
Meanwhile, the EDC also told the board last week that it had commissioned an artist to complete a piece of work that is expected to be situated on the southern end of the park.
While the work, which focuses heavily on the moon and the environment, was well received, the process again was slammed.
Lisa Deller, the head of the CB2’s land use committee, asked the EDC why it was presenting the artwork when the artist had already been selected. Furthermore, the Parks Commission had already signed off on the work.
Deller said that it was too late for the board to effectively weigh in. She said that several artists in Long Island City may have wanted to put forward their work or at least offer suggestions.
The EDC selected the artist with the help of the Department of Cultural Affairs, an arts curator and its design team.
“We have been given no opportunity to contribute,” Deller said. “It’s already been signed off on.”