In early February, a seven-alarm fire tore through a storage warehouse on the Williamsburg waterfront burning countless pages of documents and casting a thick plume of smoke over the low-slung neighborhood. Within days of the non-lethal fire, as the building continued to smolder, Brooklyn residents started demanding that the damaged CitiStorage Warehouse be replaced with parkland. They say they are owed nothing less and have been since 2005 when Michael Bloomberg rezoned a massive swath of Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
The impacts of that rezoning are hard to understate. Much of the formerly industrial waterfront is now home to glass towers and the wealthy residents who can afford to live in what has become one of New York’s most coveted neighborhoods. At the time, the city promised that the rush of development would bring with it Bushwick Inlet Park, a 28-acre green space along the East River. To date, only part of that promised park have been delivered.
Designed by Kiss + Cathcart and Starr Whitehouse, the 11 acres contains an athletic field and a Parks Department building with a sloping green roof. While the park has been quite popular, it is only one block wide, impeded to its north by the CitiStorage facility and another warehouse. To the chagrin of local residents, and some elected officials, the recent fire will not lead to more parkland, at least in the short-term.
“The unfortunate fire at Citistorage will not affect Parks’ development of Bushwick Inlet Park,” said the Parks Department in a statement. The department said the acquisition of the privately owned site is currently unfunded, as are plans to build a museum to honor the USS Monitor, a Civil War–era gunship. Under current law, the owner of the CitiStorage site is not required to sell to the city, and according to the Brooklyn Paper, the site is now valued between $73 million and $100 million. This is roughly three times its value back in 2005 when the zoning was approved. To many, not purchasing the property 10 years ago was a major missed opportunity by the city.
It is not yet known what will happen next at the highly desirable site. But, back in 2005, the Parks Department drew up grand conceptual plans for the property that included a youth athletic field, a dog run, and volleyball courts. While that vision may be dead in the water, Bushwick Inlet Park will continue to expand, at least to the north of CitiStorage.
This spring, the city expects to complete its $68.5 million acquisition of the Bayside Fuel Oil Depot. After the existing oil tank infrastructure is demolished and the site is remediated, a design for the site will be put forth.