Mayor de Blasio announces new park equity plan & funding

Photo and caption from article today in New York Times:  Saratoga Ballfields, Brownsville, Brooklyn. Photo by    Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Photo and caption from article today in New York Times:  Saratoga Ballfields, Brownsville, Brooklyn. Photo by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

News & Background

Park Equity News from Gotham Gazette

Park Equity News from New York Times

Valentino Park Comfort Station proposed Parks Department plan. This became so large, in part, due to FEMA requirements that a new building in coastal flood zone be elevated.

Message to Red Hook

Dear Red Hook:

Thinking of the Valentino Park and Coffey Park discussions, above is info about citywide discussions about ‪#‎parkequity‬ to get funding to underserved neighborhoods. Mayor Bill de Blasio will announce a new plan today with $130MM in funding to go to 35 parks.

This is encouraging news in and of itself (we support more going to communities that have less) and seems like a good time to bring to citywide level one of the issues that our Valentino Comfort station has brought up, eg, how to keep costs down.

$130MM will not go far if 4 toilet stalls cost $2.4MM.

Let's find ways to engage constructively in a citywide discussion about how to improve parks for all. Better, cheaper, smaller potties for us could be the start of something bigger for all. All word play intended.

It would be good for Red Hook to bear in mind, that though many feel this community was slighted for years, by now Red Hook has revitalized so much we are NOT as underserved as places like Brownsville are.

Thanks to NYS Senator Daniel Squadron for his work on #parkequity and to Councilman Carlos Menchaca for bringing the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to the community table for meetings about waterfront parks in Red Hook and Sunset Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upcoming Meeting #3 Valentino Park Comfort Station Issue 10/9/14 7pm PS15

see January 2018 update at bottom

THURSDAY 10/9, 7:00pm at PS 15

Next Red Hook meeting about Valentino Park Comfort Station:  Note, this is a change from the originally announced date of 10/8!

People for Red Hook Public Parks (PRHPP) set up this meeting. Here is their REVISED announcement PDF

Here is Parks Department proposed comfort station

For background, see our prior blogposts:

Report on Meeting #1:  9/4/14 Meeting with Carlos Menchaca & Parks at Red Hook library

Background info: Parks Dept. proposed comfort station & the process

Report on Meeting #2:  9/24/14 PRHPP meeting at 351 Van Brunt for community members only.

Info on upcoming meeting for Thurs 10/9 from PRHPP

People for Red Hook Public Parks and City Councilman Carlos Menchaca will be holding a community meeting on Wed. October 8th at 7pm at P.S. 15, The Daly School on Sullivan Street, between Van Brunt and Richards St. in Red Hook. The meeting is the latest in a series of meetings regarding the proposed NYC New York City Department of Parks & Recreation comfort station for Valentino Park.

The Red Hook community has expressed serious concerns about this project: cost, its size location and necessity.

At a cost of $2.5 million dollars, the cost to taxpayers for this project will be over $4000 per square foot. Construction costs for a luxury condominium in Manhattan are $500 per square foot.

The proposed location, Valentino Pier Park, is a quiet community gem, treasured by the neighborhood. The proposed building will cut the park in half and occupy a large portion of open green space.

With a change in city administration, the Red Hook community is counting on a reversal of the top--‐down management style of previous administrations. In order to protect our parks and our neighborhood, we need to bring the people who make decisions together with the people those decisions impact.

So please come to the meeting and bring a friend. We wish to avoid acrimony and work towards a positive relationship between community and administration, so bring your ideas and yourself!

January 2018 update

DOT has approved a sidewalk toilet.   Red Hook, we have been heard! Remember all those meetings about a big, expensive "comfort station" proposed for our charming waterfront park Valentino Park? That concept was defeated, and a small, sidewalk toilet is coming via the DOT. Thanks to everyone for participating in public meetings, on-line discussions with us, and other modes. Community action worked! A special shout out to Anne Griepenburgwho researched the Portland Loo which presented an alternative that appealed to many and may have swung government decision around to that kind of solution.

Toilet Party any one? It has the great acronym of TP.

We hear that there is a spring installation expected, but we are still waiting on confirmation.

Help PortSide continue this kind of community reporting and grow our programs

Support our fundraiser on Tuesday 10/28/14Resiliency is our HOOK.” Buy a ticket. Become a sponsor. Join the Host Committee and help sell tickets before the event. It will be a fun event with the rollicking Dixieland jazz of the Red Hook Ramblers and the great food and casual ambiance of Hometown Bar-B-Que restaurant.  We greatly appreciate your support!   As do the people and businesses who benefit from our resiliency work!

Red Hook's Valentino Park - Comfort Station 9-24-14 community meeting

January 2018 update

DOT has approved a sidewalk toilet.   Red Hook, we have been heard! Remember all those meetings about a big, expensive "comfort station" proposed for our charming waterfront park Valentino Park? That concept was defeated, and a small, sidewalk toilet is coming via the DOT. Thanks to everyone for participating in public meetings, on-line discussions with us, and other modes. Community action worked! A special shout out to Anne Griepenburg who researched the Portland Loo which presented an alternative that appealed to many and may have swung government decision around to that kind of solution. Toilet Party any one? It has the great acronym of TP. We hear that there is a spring installation expected, but we are still waiting on confirmation.

September 25, 2014

Our Director Carolina Salguero attended the following meeting last night and wrote the following summary. Notes were taken by others, and we will make them available as we get them

From Parks Department PDF. See link at left for full PDF.

From Parks Department PDF. See link at left for full PDF.

PEOPLE FOR RED HOOK PUBLIC PARKS MEETING
Wed 9/24 7:30pm, 351 Van Brunt St.
Carolina Salguero notes

Here is a PDF with Parks proposal for the comfort station

Overview

A meeting of about 40 people was held over about two hours. The meeting was designed as a community conversation meaning Community Board 6, Parks, elected officials or media were not invited. The Red Hook Star Revue was asked to leave.  However, Peterson Napoleon, a staffer from NYS Assemblyman Felix Ortiz office was there which was only made clear after he spoke up midway through the meeting. He stayed.  Given the request for the media to leave and some of the passions in the room,  we do not mention names of speakers below when describing proposals, questions or statements people made.

There was little interest in the meeting in the idea that one would be able to see the Statue of Liberty from the proposed Comfort Station as shown in this rendering. Saving the lawn was a far greater priority.

There was little interest in the meeting in the idea that one would be able to see the Statue of Liberty from the proposed Comfort Station as shown in this rendering. Saving the lawn was a far greater priority.

A significant portion of the beginning of the meeting was spent venting frustration with Parks, CB6, the City, etc for not being sensitive to Red Hook.  This was intertwined with discussion about how do we discuss this? Who moderates? Passions ran high.

Things settled down and discussion got into various aspects of the Parks planning and outreach process, the status and amount of the whopping $2.4MM for the comfort station, who wants toilets and not, who is represented at the meeting and not, etc.

Towards the end of meeting, there was a lot of discussion about how to capture the points in the meeting, share the info about the meeting and the Parks proposal with the community, whether to have another prep meeting before a meeting with Carlos Menchaca on 10/8 or 10/9; and discussion, pro and con, about the way Red Hook tackles planning issues and when to use anger or not.

(correction added 9/27/14. It was decided to write a press release. Once we get that, we will post it here.)

Toilets yes or no

There was a lot of concern that the Parks plan took up alot of popular lawn space with the building, the access ramps and with the landscaping

There was a lot of concern that the Parks plan took up alot of popular lawn space with the building, the access ramps and with the landscaping

Early in the meeting there was a show of hands vote which showed that about half the room, maybe a tad more, was for no toilets at all, the other half for some toilet but not this version in this location.  (correction, first draft here omitted that there was a later vote that came out in  favor of a smaller toilet in a different location so there was some evolution in the course of the meeting.)

Criticism of the toilet form (as opposed to its planning process):

Too big, too expensive, in the wrong place in the park, bad for taking away green space, ugly, not sensitive to 19th Century buildings.

Specific Points for Follow Up:

Questions about Parks Process

View from the ADA ramp or Ferris Street side

View from the ADA ramp or Ferris Street side

What are the stages of this process? Meaning what happens moving forward so RH community can understand how we can or how much we can influence?  “Can CB6 rubber stamp this without RH involvement?” was asked in various ways.

There were many questions about how did this come about? Is there a documented request? What metrics does Parks use to prove need for toilets? (Comparisons were made to Red Hook Ballfields and Central Park that are much larger and have more visitors and would have a lower toilet-tovisitor ratio than Valentino would have if this 4-stall comfort station were built.)

There was some discussion about whether it was locals or visitors who needed toilets. Some people were of the “who cares about the visitors” persuasion, others not.

Can a survey be conducted of the park users to see how many want toilets? This was a popular question.

Finance questions

How locked in is the $1.4MM? Is it locked into that park? That project?

View from the stair side or western side.

View from the stair side or western side.

$50,000 to use for Valentino Park is paid annually by Hughes Marine (a give back for the Police evidence lot on the Erie Basin breakwater).  We were told this is supposed to be for Valentino Park but has been put in Parks general fund. It was suggested, too much agreement, that we need to get that pulled out of general and applied to Valentino.

There was general, strong agreement that the price tag for this thing was too high.

Planning parameters

Design criteria: what are they for this design (from FEMA, to DEC, zoning, building code, etc) so we can propose informed alternates.

Portapotties: Can seasonal portapotties be used rather than anything permanent?

Property lines:

  • There needs to be more clarity about where street end and private property lines are on the Van Dyke Street side.

  • Is there anything that can be used in that asphalt area or is that all private property?

  • [Note: the DOT, at least under Bloomberg, had a Street End program that supports public uses; and if the street end abuts the park, there might be some way to use DOT space as public open space.]

Love the lawn: The room was strongly for protecting the green and either wanted an absolute “don’t build on the green” or had a strong primary interest in avoiding building on the green. Those two points covered just about everyone there.

There was strong appreciation for “natural” plantings and style of the park.

Heavily used site wiped out by toilets There was a strong sense that Parks did not understand how heavily used the section where they’ve placed the comfort station is.  It was referred to as a children’s play area, BBQ area, area heavily used by “poor people who are not represented here.”

DEC Do they have jurisdiction here or not? One speaker said that DEC has signed off,  and that they did not.

Wish list:

There was considerable discussion covering “If we could spend this money on what we want, or get money for what we want.”  This was held partly in the hope that some of the $2.4MM could be directed elsewhere but also to be able to make Parks better understand the community use and needs relative to this park:

Garbage cans.  More of them and cans for recyclables. One person said could those be bundled with toilets under category “waste” as a way to use the allocated funds for things other than bathrooms.

Hose: Some way to wash down the fish guts etc on end of the pier left by fisherman. A hand-pump was proposed that used salt water to cut down cost (and disruption to park) of installing a line connected to City water mains.

Beach: A way to make the beach more suitable for toddlers/small children. How was not clearly defined; the comment was that it seemed iffy for little ones.

BoatBox  PortSide’s BoatBox plans to turn the container used by the Red Hook Boaters into a better amenity for all park users, visiting kayakers, and the Boaters themselves. The current container came to service the park via work done by PortSide and the Red Hook Boaters; and the agreement was that Boaters had use of the inside and that PortSide’s program space was the outside of the container and that PortSide would take the lead there, consulting with the Boaters during the process.

ALTERNATIVE TOILET SCENARIOS

Bush Terminal Piers Park in Sunset Park toilets were mentioned a few times at tonight's meeting.The architects site for them is here

Est4te Four – there was a proposal to approach them and ask them to build the comfort station solution. There was a variation whereby someone proposed that, when Est4te Fou asked for their variance to build, that the community demand that they build bathrooms as their give back in the way that O'Connell had to provide public access to the waterfront and an esplanade.

Brooklyn Bridge Park toilets by Jane’s Carousel  These photos were requested but for some reason Benjamin Peikes photos posted on the Facebook page for Mary A. Whalen  were not visible on the iPad or a phone.  They are in this two-photo slide show.

That concludes our notes from the meeting

With the goal of informing the discussion, here are some links from comments on our Facebook page about existing small-footprint, lower-cost toilets

The City of Portland, Oregon has had a public toilet design process. Here are several links. Thank you Anne Griepenberg for the info about Portland's work posted to our Mary A. Whalen Facebook page.

City of Portland Parks & Recreation public loo webpage

A blogpost describes the design and reveals that there is a public restroom competition in Canada, a source of more info, though the Portland unit won, they say.  The Portland Loo

Tech specs for Portland Loo

Tips for making Loos that Last - Blogpost
 Article revealing that they cost $60,000 each

More on FEMA Given some discussion about whether the comfort station could be wetproofed rather than raised Here is FEMA ino on wet floodproofing

Other groups discussing public toilet design

PHLUSH is also out of Portland. "PHLUSH believes that toilet availability is a human right and that well-designed sanitation facilities restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils."

The Poop Project

American Restroom Association

NYC's own public toilet design

 

Red Hook's Valentino Park - Comfort Station yes, no or how?

From the Red Hook Star Revue

From the Red Hook Star Revue

See January 2018 update at bottom.

The Parks Department has proposed a large comfort station (bathroom) for Red Hook's small jewel of a waterfront park, the Louis J. Valentino Park  & Pier.

PDF of the Comfort Station plan

We will update this blogpost as we get new information (and time allows). You can also get updates on our Facebook page for Mary A. Whalen

See our prior post about the Fall 2014 repair work Parks planned which caused the first round of consternation.

Below we copy a post we made to Facebook on Tuesday 9/23/14. There were great comments and photos submitted in response and we'll try to get those over here when we can. Not everyone is on Facebook, and a blog post makes a one-stop link that can be shared widely, but the flurry of discussion on this topic, is quite a bit of work to follow!

People for Red Hook Public Parks MEETING Wed 9/24 7:30-8:30p, 351 Van Brunt St. There are rising concerns over New York City Department of Parks & Recreation plan for a comfort station in ‪#‎ValentinoPark‬. Concerns focus on large size of the comfort station which wipes out a whole side of park that is heavily used, and the high cost (4 stalls = $2.4 million according to The Red Hook Star-Revue). The size seems to result, at least in part, from FEMA requirements that the building be raised, leading to the creation of a hillock, and then the required ADA ramp to reach that height also becomes huge. The landscaping plan prevents uses that currently occur in that section of the park.

RECOMMENDATION Let's all approach this by asking questions and negotiating. Red Hook has the tendency to launch into angry accusations in public meetings - at the outset. That is not the best way to tease out alternatives (be they of design or of process). Anger blocks creative thinking (affecting community members trying to improve things), and the people in power are people too and it can be hard for them to be receptive to working with a community that is screaming at them. Anger should be the last resort.

ALTERNATIVES? Could something smaller in size and cost be built-to-flood or "wet-proofed" as Andrea Sansom has proposed? Would incinolets solve the space/cost problem? If it is solar and wind powered by the designs that Baldev Duggal has created for the Brooklyn Navy Yard does it become more resilient or cost less? Someone said if the money is not used it is lost, well then, could money from resulting savings be used for other improvements to the park such as the BoatBox that PortSide designed as a better boathouse and outdoor living room for park users?

The scale of the proposed comfort station does remind us of that Vietnam era slogan "we had to destroy the village in order to save it" by which me mean that an improvement to the park is wiping out a lot of the park.

Carlos Menchaca got involved to clear up some misunderstandings about the Parks repair project which prompted the fences to go up, and we expect that he has already rolled his sleeves up to tackle the Comfort Station Matter.

http://www.star-revue.com/controversial-plan-valentino-pier-comfort-station-george-fiala/ 

January 2018 update

DOT has approved a sidewalk toilet.   Red Hook, we have been heard! Remember all those meetings about a big, expensive "comfort station" proposed for our charming waterfront park Valentino Park? That concept was defeated, and a small, sidewalk toilet is coming via the DOT. Thanks to everyone for participating in public meetings, on-line discussions with us, and other modes. Community action worked! A special shout out to Anne Griepenburg who researched the Portland Loo which presented an alternative that appealed to many and may have swung government decision around to that kind of solution.

Toilet Party any one? It has the great acronym of TP.

We hear that there is a spring installation expected, but we are still waiting on confirmation.

 

Report on Red Hook meeting about Valentino Park hosted by Carlos Menchaca with the Parks Department

Valentino Park, Red Hook, Brooklyn. The little park with the big view. 

Valentino Park, Red Hook, Brooklyn. The little park with the big view. 

Red Hook, Brooklyn has a small jewel with a big view in the Louis J. Valentino Park and Pier.  The place inspired an August uproar due to unannounced renovation project by the Parks Department.

To set the scene, this park is heavily used by old-timers and newbies, dog walkers, fishermen, sunbathers, kids, seniors, an occasional croquet game, the outdoor movie series Red Hook Flicks and the Red Hook Boaters who offer free kayaking and conduct beach clean ups. 

The use of the park has ramped up due to a great food and activity scene which sprang up post hurricane Sandy on the Van Dyke Street end on the parks southeast side with the Steve's Key Lime Pie and Hometown BBQ setting up outdoor eating areas. Brooklyn Motor Works is running a cool motorcycle biz next door, and there is a forge across the street at She-Weld and Pier 44 Antiques auction house (they also sell retail) next to that. In short, a Red Hook scene.

2005 renovation of Valentino Park

2005 renovation of Valentino Park

So.... not surprisingly, when fences went up around Valentino Park recently without any prior notice from the Parks department, there was community concern - concerns heightened by the fact that Red Hook's Coffey Park was shut down for renovations without notice this year, and Valentino Park underwent a similar surprise lockdown for renovations in 2005. 

Last night, Councilman Carlos Menchaca convened and ran a great meeting with the Parks Department and the community, and THE COMMUNITY WAS HEARD

Hats off to Carlos Menchaca for organizing this meeting and running it so well. Thank you, Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Jeffrey for coming out, for apologizing for lack of notice to the community about the project, for committing to do better and change the process, and for being willing to take input on some design issues regarding proposed repair near a bulkhead.

The community and CM Carlos Menchaca conveyed that there needs to be more communication from Parks in the future and more opportunity for community input. People expressed concerns about process and design. Great comments by Victoria Hagman, Dan Daniel Wiley, Lillie Marshall, Danella Johnson, Tony Schloss, and many others.

In sum, the Parks work plan is the following

  • This is, in Parks' terms, a small $118,000 project that should be completed within a month.
  • Most of the park will stay open during the work.
  • Access to the pier and the beach will remain open during the work.
  • Work needs to finish well before winter weather because asphalt plants close when temperatures drop below 45 degrees.
Red Hook Boaters in action!

Red Hook Boaters in action!

The work is occurring because Parks wanted to fix the broken water fountain over near Coffey Street and in order to make that project large enough for a capital project, they bundled that work with some other repairs, - all of this happening because they have some discretionary money in the budget.

Those "other repairs" are fixing the walkways parallel to the water (NOT the central walkway to the pier) through the park in the following ways: The smaller walks near the water are "aggregate" (gravel in plain English) bounded by low steel rails; the problem with this design is that the aggregate has "migrated" (or spread in plain English) far from the walkways. This means that the walkways are now lower than the steel rails, and those rails are now a tripping hazard.

Another walkway issue is the 8-9" step from walkway up to the pier on the SE (or Steve's Key Lime Pie) side of the pier walkway, and that's tough on seniors and the disabled and a trip-n-fall hazard to all us distracted folks.

Short term band aid vs long term resiliency

Lastly, and this is were the big focus and passion of the discussion about the renovation design centered, was how and why Parks proposed to deal with a zone on that same SE side of the pier where salt water comes over the bulkhead, puddles, and then drains back out to sea - in the process, killing vegetation and taking the soil with it, eg leading to a situation that at some point will create sinkholes and a collapsed bulkhead.

The difference of opinion here was that Parks wanted to do a quick repair to prevent a big future job and the hazard of sinkholes by raising the land so that it was level with the bulkhead and putting an asphalt cap (with sand and cement below) over PART of the area there so that water would drain from the asphalt back to sea.

Parks could have brought a better rendering showing what would become asphalt and what would be planting in this new domed better-drained hump of park - there was a lot of confusion about what was staying green and not.

At the meeting last night, many community members asked the Parks department for more green and less asphalt. There is heavy use of the small green space in Valentino Park.

At the meeting last night, many community members asked the Parks department for more green and less asphalt. There is heavy use of the small green space in Valentino Park.

Many community members did not want more asphalt in the park. Victoria Hagman suggested that Parks seek input on more green and resilient design practices, citing Gita Nandan as one possible contributor.  Dan Wiley from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez office mentioned that the $200MM integrated flood protection plan coming to Red Hook might replace or better what Parks is proposing. (In the after-meeting chatter, some questioned whether the $200MM plan would be built long after that spot has a major sinkhole.)

Parks pointed out that they don't have budget now to re-design or use more costly materials.

Landscape architects vs BLUEspace architects

As waterfront advocates, we want to interject, supporting what Commissioner Jeffrey admitted last night,  that this salt-spray, sinkhole-prone section of the park was NOT well designed from the outset. (PS, its surface treatment of plantings etc was installed during the 2005 renovation.)

Somewhere in our files is a photo of salt spray heavily dousing newly planted "beach roses" which soon died in that spot.

In our opinion, it was typical of how NYC waterfront park design is dominated by landscape architects and not water people. Where are the BLUEspace architects? Piers designed for boats?

PortSide offering line throwing activity at Red Hook Fest in Valentino Park 2011

PortSide offering line throwing activity at Red Hook Fest in Valentino Park 2011

Breaking down the silos

PortSide Director Carolina Salguero picked up on Dan Wiley's comment about NY Rising resiliency work. She was on the NY Rising committee, and PortSide has done a lot of recovery and resiliency planning work since Hurricane Sandy.  Salguero asked if the collapsed water line under Coffey Street to the drinking fountain was related to the frequent HUGE puddle that sits on the west end of Coffey Street after a rain.

Storm drain problems were a big focus of the NY Rising effort. Parks could not answer that on the spot, and said they would ask their engineer for info.

At PortSide, we always try and break down silos and develop cross talk, so the hope with this question is that a Parks project could lead to info that would inform a DEP project the Red Hook NY Rising committee hopes to see. Sounds simple, but NYC agency cross-talk and info-share is harder than one would expect.

Next steps

As design-by-community could not solve the "how to cap and drain the proposed dome," it was agreed that the community would do some homework and get ideas to Parks.

Everyone needs to bear in mind that there is not a lot of budget here, so AFFORDABLE concepts need to be submitted. As to whether or how design changes could be made due to city process on how to bid and let a job, over to Carlos and Parks for answer.

Est4te Four, who is developing all the property across Coffey Street from Valentino, will want the Coffey Street Lake resolved, so Red Hook may see a solution due to private development.

NEXT ISSUE for Valentino Park" Parks proposal to install a "comfort station" eg bathrooms over by the Coffey Street side near Ferris. Come to a Brooklyn Community Board 6 meeting on Wed 9/17 6:30pm at the Miccio Center for discussion of that (and Coffey Park) as well as the Columbus Day weekend concert on Pier 9 in the Red Hook Container Term