grass roots effort wins park funding

| 10 Nov 2015 | 03:32


Chelsea is going to have a new piece of green.

If you walk past 20th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues these days, you’ll pass a notice on the fence of a vacant lot, a sign with the iconic maple leaf that says “future site of a neighborhood park.”

On Sunday morning, NYC Council Member Corey Johnson announced a fully funded plan for the creation of a 10,000-square-foot park there. The lot will be augmented by the demolition of two low-rise administrative buildings formerly occupied by the Department of Sanitation.

“Seeing a dream turn into reality, we are beyond grateful for the dedication of so many neighborhood residents,” said Matt Weiss, the founder of Friends of 20th Street Park, which has advocated for the pocket park for the past five years.

The cost of the park is being put at nearly $5.8 million, with $1 million coming through Johnson’s office, $4.3 million from the parks department, and $500,000 from private contributions.

Another $200,000 in participatory came from the participatory budgeting process.

“In terms of open space, Community Board 4 ranks last in Manhattan and 58th out of 59 community boards citywide,” Johnson said. “Great cities provide their residents with access to green space. I want to thank the people of my district who have been organizing for years for a new park at this location.

Weiss, a 37-year-old father of three, started lobbying for the park when he found there was no park within walking distance.

“Chelsea is a wonderful, diverse and vibrant neighborhood,” he said. “It’s seen growth at every turn but in one area that growth had not kept pace, it needed a green space.”

He noted that the area bounded by 14th and 26th Streets between Sixth and Eighth Avenues had “no patch of green.”

The friends group organized numerous rallies; put together a website and passed around petitions that had gathered more than 4,000 signatures from supportive residents.

The grassroots group got its biggest momentum in the past spring when it became a top vote getter in the District 3’s participatory budgeting.

“Not only did that get us funding, it really validated what we are doing,” Weiss said.

The city parks department is working on an environmental assessment of the site. The process will formally kick off in March with a series of meetings at which the community will be asked for design ideas. As of now, officials say the park will open sometime in 2019.

“Now even before the park is built, we have built a community,” Weiss said.