De Blasio Criticized For Abandoning Bloomberg Plan For Calvert Vaux Park

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Calvert Vaux Park

Calvert Vaux Park (Photo by Bensonhurst Bean)

Another budget season, another trashed Southern Brooklyn park.

At a Parks budget hearing last week, Councilman Mark Treyger raised with Commissioner Mitchell Silver the issue of the dilapidated and overgrown Calvert Vaux Park, which in 2007 was promised a full renovation by the Bloomberg administration — a plan that would transform the 77-acre space into a regional park.

The original $40 million plan included three baseball fields, six soccer fields, kayak launches, picnic areas, a central lawn, a bicycle path, nature trails, an amphitheater, a playground, a recreation center, and a pavilion.

Calvert Vaux

But after recession-related budget cuts hit, followed by a required environmental cleanup that turned out to be pricier than expected, the plan was shoved to the wayside. The park ended up with just two soccer fields and a parking lot, and Calvert Vaux —  which is home to some of the most exotic wildlife in Brooklyn — is still best known for its overgrown fields, discarded shopping carts and tires, craters, and the occasional dead body.

“It has the potential to be a real gem and the vision should really be actualized. All that was accomplished is two soccer fields and a parking lot, and the rest is just park land that is in great need of care and in need of environmental remediation,” said Treyger, who is on the City Council’s Parks Committee.

calvert vaux

One of the many abandoned boats swept onto the shores of Calvert Vaux Park by Superstorm Sandy. (Photo by Bensonhurst Bean)

Calvert Vaux

Photo by Bensonhurst Bean

A major setback for the project was the enormous amount of pollution found at the park, which was extended in the 1960s by dumped construction fill from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, noted the New York Post in 2011. Two soccer fields that were supposed to cost $10.8 million wound up costing the city $14.5 million because of contaminated soil, drainage problems, and other issues, officials told the paper.

While the city claims not to have the $40 million needed to honor Bloomberg’s commitment to fix up Calvert Vaux, the de Blasio administration did find the money to build a $176 million waste station (also a Bloomberg-era plan) right beside it, Treyger noted. Community members, politicians, and environmental activists have been fighting the Gravesend Bay Marine Waste Transfer Station, citing fears that construction could dredge up toxic chemicals found at the site.

Calvert Vaux

Photo by Bensonhurst Bean

The Calvert Vaux conversation arose when Brooklyn Councilman Stephen Levin confronted the Parks Department commissioner about the sluggish pace of another project inherited from the former mayor: Bushwick Inlet Park — a 28-acre green space along the East River. All the city has to show for that waterfront development plan, which was introduced by Bloomberg in 2005, is a single soccer field, reports the New York Observer.

Redistricting recently placed Calvert Vaux Park into Councilman Vincent Gentile’s area, and a spokesperson for his office said that the councilman has already designated more than half of his capital budget towards other Parks-related projects such as repairs on the playground at Bensonhurst Park, leaving little left for Calvert Vaux.

Earlier this year, Treyger and Gentile took the mayor’s office to task for failure to include Bensonhurst Park, which is in desperate need of a full renovation, in the mayor’s Community Parks Initiative — $35 million set aside for Parks-related improvements in densely populated, growing, and lower-income communities.

“I’m still going to reiterate my prior call there has been inequity in the Parks capital budget, where Southern Brooklyn really needs its fair share,” said Treyger.

Calver Vaux

Photo by Bensonhurst Bean

In a statement to Bensonhurst Bean, City Council’s Parks chair and Manhattan Councilman Mark Levine agreed that Southern Brooklyn green spaces warranted better representation in the initiative.

Calvert Vaux

Photo by Bensonhurst Bean

Calvert Vaux

Photo by Bensonhurst Bean

“The criteria for CPI parks is that they be heavily used parks in low-income areas, with little or no investment in the past 20 years. Undoubtedly, a number of parks in South Brooklyn meet this criteria, and I, together with my colleagues from these communities, are advocating for the inclusion of Southern Brooklyn in the next CPI round,” said Levine.

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  • 1ifbyrain2ifbytrain

    Spot on Bensonhurst Bean! I was there a week ago and wondered what was going on. I think the baseball fields are actually done, but they are behind a fence and blocked by an unmowed area of weeds. Is the way to get to the water that dirt path across the gravel parking lot after the soccer fields? Didn’t the original plan include a foot-bridge to Coney Island?

    • Sean F

      The baseball fields aren’t really done. My son plays on them with his league. They are roughly maintained by the high schools that use them, but they are, by no means, “done”. And the area around the fields is used as a storage area (I assume by Parks). Piles of dirt, bits of construction leftovers, and a batting cage that’s unusable. You get to these wonderful playing fields only after driving over a path (“road” would be too generous) that could kill a Mars rover. No restrooms anywhere near the baseball fields. It’s embarrassing that this has to be the regular field used by several of our local schools, and that visiting schools with much better local fields have to see our boys here. It’s no wonder it is difficult to get scouts to come to games.

      • 1ifbyrain2ifbytrain

        Thank you for more information. I didn’t think there was any access to the baseball fields based on my observation. It is a shame that it is taking so long. One would think that the grass/landscaping could be addressed in the area of the park near the road that is “done” but that is being neglected too. Summer Job anyone?

        • James

          Not to mention poor supervision of staff assigned to the park . Last summer watched summer staff hang out in a/c trailer while overgrown weeds in flower planters and flowers in need of watering . I asked the lady what her assigned tasks were? She said they told her to pick up trash on soccer field and nothing else