March 25, 2012
This is a timeline (12/2001-3/2012) of the advocacy efforts around the vacant lot on Myrtle Avenue between Kent and Franklin Avenues.
Following an active community organizing effort, plans are in place to convert the DEP-owned Water Tunnel Number 3 Shaft 21B site on Myrtle Avenue between Kent and Franklin Avenues into a much-needed park. A design is developed with an artist and the community. The DEP promised $375K to develop the plan.
12/2001 – 7/2010
Paula Z. Segal floats the idea of organizing around this space to her friends.
“A park on Myrtle Avenue would be amazing. A real park. For everyone. I am not sure what can be done to make it real, but I thought to start a conversation. Any ideas? I am also going to post this letter on the fences with an email address and see what happens. And I guess ask facebook for advice. Please forward to neighbors, and anyone with contacts at the DEP, and anyone else who might care.”
City Council member Letitia James tells the nascent MVG she had been petitioning DEP to make this a park for 3 years. She suggests a petition from residents to the Mayor and the DEP commissioner.
MVG is in contact with Ms. James, Henry L. Butler of CB3, James O’ Brien of Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School (BCAM), Nancy Romer of the Brooklyn Food Coalition, and a growing number of neighbors.
A petition is launched at the “Move About Myrtle” street fair. Over 1,000 signatures are collected in the following months.
A meeting is called at BCAM in the high school across the street from the site. CB3, City Council, the DEP, and a number of community groups are present– including members of the Hassidic community, affordable housing advocates, the schools, the Pratt Center for Community Development, and more. Over 70 people show up. There is standing room only in the library classroom.
In an email to MVG, Council Member James reiterates that there are possible funding options available through her office and asks these prescient questions: “What do we want on that site? How can we meet competing interests? Can we address both needs?”
Letitia James informs MVG that Cas Holloway the Commissioner of the DEP will meet with the community to announce that they are willing to transfer some control of the Myrtle Avenue Water Tunnel Number 3 “Park” land to a community group.
Commissioner Holloway meets with MVG and the community at the high school and announces that the DEP is willing to transfer control of Partition C to the community. Pictures are taken in front of the fence with Holloway, James, and the neighbors.
Letitia James says that she is planning to host a charrette / workshop with CB3, Planning, DEP, Housing Preservation and Development and the community in the fall. This never materializes.
MVG hosts a block party on the street outside the fences next to the site.
DEP clears a portion of the site and installs new fences. Ms. James confirms that they plan to give MVG keys soon.
Representatives from MVG meet with Matthew Mahoney of the DEP. He requests a written proposal that includes the plan for interim use as well as how it will be funded and insured. He says on the record that so long as the requirements we discussed are met and Ms. James is on board, the DEP sees no reason why keys could not be transferred by 3/1/2012.
A written plan for interim use of the Myrtle Avenue Parcel of the site is sent to the DEP, CB3, and Ms. James’ office. It includes plans for a flower garden for the school kids in the neighborhood, raised-bed gardens, a rainwater catchment system, and composting.
A successful fundraiser is completed on IOBY.org for the community garden in less than 24 hours.
The March 1st date comes and goes without the transfer of keys.
MVG spends the day on the sidewalk in front of the fence at on Myrtle Avenue. Recycled plastic bottles are planted with pansies and hung on the fence. Neighbors stop by. Kids help out. Spring begins on the sidewalk in front of a vacant lot fenced off from the community for over 20 years.
The sanitation department removes the flowers as well as the MVG signs that have been on the fence since the block party in October.
Ms. James tells MVG that she does not know who took down the flowers and that she would like to have had the charrette she promised in the fall “yesterday.” There are rumors that she suggested sometime in May to another group. There are also rumors of alternative plans being made for affordable housing on the site with developers and other groups.
MVG is told of a meeting taking place to discuss the future of the site scheduled for Tuesday 3/27 by the Henry Butler, the Chairman of Community Board 3. We are not invited, but we are assured that a discussion of a community garden project is on the agenda.
There is still no transfer of keys or any concrete plan with MVG or the community-at-large to discuss the future of this site for either interim or long-term use.