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Mayor Bloomberg breaks ground at Bushwick Inlet

Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined scores of public officials and community members to break ground at Williamsburg’s newest park, Bushwick Inlet, this week, though many community leaders believe the Bloomberg administration has not proceeded quickly enough to create open space along the waterfront.

In his second parks-related press conference in Williamsburg in the past two weeks, Mayor Bloomberg answered additional questions from the city’s press corps and Williamsburg residents about the consequences of rezoning the waterfront for residential use and the delays in several parks projects throughout North Brooklyn.

“There’s a recession going on nationwide,” said Mayor Bloomberg.“Obviously everyone’s plans get scaled back.We’re not cutting back on anything, just expanding our time horizon.We just don’t have the tax revenues coming in to build things when we would like.”

Budget shortfalls have done little to endanger the opening of the 28-acre Bushwick Inlet (North 9th and Kent Avenue), which began construction on July 9.The $7.2 million first phase will include the installation of a synthetic turf field, made with sand, not rubberized particles, for soccer, football, lacrosse, field hockey, rugby, and ultimate frisbee and is expected to be completed by winter 2010.

The second phase, with $22.6 million in city funding, will include a waterfront esplanade and a new sustainable building that will provide space for community meetings, public programming and Parks maintenance facilities.The building, designed by the landscape architecture firm Starr Whitehouse, is expected to open in summer 2011.

“We have a commitment in our community to stand and fight for as much open space as possible.It’s a long time coming but it’s welcome,” said Assemblymember Joseph Lentol (D-Williamsburg), who joined Borough President Marty Markowitz and Councilmember David Yassky (D-Williamsburg) in thanking many local residents.“This is a first step in a quest for open space.I know we’re going to have more years to follow through with this administration.”

Williamsburg parks advocates have overcome years of intense lobbying from a local gas company, developers’ construction plans, and threats of city budget cuts in order to secure the Inlet park, though many said the fight is far from over.

Neighbors Allied for Good Growth Board members issued a statement welcoming Mayor Bloomberg and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe to Kent Avenue but criticized the administration for stalled projects on Commercial Street, Dupont Street, and Greenpoint Avenue that would lead to more affordable housing and open space in North Brooklyn.

“It has been four years since the rezoning of Greenpoint and Williamsburg. Our neighborhood is changing before our eyes, there are few blocks in North Brooklyn that haven’t been touched by development.We have towers now, but we are still waiting for our affordable housing, the continuation of the tenant anti-displacement program, and of course, our parks,” said Emily Gallagher, a spokeswoman with NAG.

Despite the delays, Parks Commissioner Benepe was ebullient at the opening and praised both the Bloomberg administration and local parks activists for their work to nudge the project to fruition.

“The mayor is quite possibly the best mayor for Parks that the Parks Department has ever had,” he said.“This will be the finest waterfront park in the city.”

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