CB6 eyes city-owned sites for open space

Baruch College’s pedestrian block on East 25th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Baruch College’s pedestrian block on East 25th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community Board 6 is exploring opportunities to create more open space in the district and discussed the possibility of utilizing city-owned property to do so at the most recent Land Use and Waterfront committee meeting earlier this month.

Committee Chair Terrence O’Neal said that the board is currently combing the neighborhood for spaces owned by the city that might be available, but it isn’t always a straightforward transaction.

“When (the city does) own property, they want to make something out of it,” he said, referencing the deal the city made with Brookdale and Hunter College for the planned sanitation garage.

Although residents are still fighting the plan, the sanitation garage proposal for the Brookdale site at East 25th Street and First Avenue came about because the original site of the sanitation garage, at East 74th Street and York Avenue, was sold to Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital. The sale provided funding for the garage, which needed to be replaced, and the land on East 25th Street will revert back to city ownership when Hunter College moves the facilities currently in that space up to Yorkville as part of the MSK project.

“Land is expensive and they want to take advantage of it when it’s available,” O’Neal added. “These real estate deals can be useful for the city but open space doesn’t necessarily have those advantages.”

One of the options for city-owned property that could be turned into open space could be part of a street being blocked off and turned into a park or plaza, like the space in front of the Asser Levy Recreation Center or the section of East 25th Street that was blocked off for Baruch College.

O’Neal said that one of the obstacles to closing a section of a street is that the community has to agree to the closure.

“There wasn’t a problem with Baruch because they owned both sides of the street,” he said. “But in another area we would have to get everyone in the community to agree to it.”

Regardless of the obstacles that would come with closing another section of street, O’Neal said that in a situation like that, the community board would likely push for a space more like that at Baruch rather than at Asser Levy, which is a playground area.

He added that another avenue the board is exploring is encouraging developers of new buildings to create or provide open spaces as part of new developments.

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