Friends of Gulick Park Spring Forward

Residents spent the day sprucing up Luther Gulick Park in November. Photo courtesy Brian Crowley.

The fledgling neighborhood organization, Friends of Gulick Park, has made a lot of progress since the last time we checked in with them a few months ago. They’re gearing up this spring for a big push to secure the funding needed to rehab what city officials call one of the most neglected public spaces in all of New York.

Since an initial meeting in the park (located at Delancey and Willett Streets) last summer, lots of residents have joined the campaign to reclaim the blighted two-block parcel just to the south of the Williamsburg Bridge. They’ve met with Parks Department bureaucrats and elected officials. They held a community day in the park, planting bulbs, pulling weeds and cleaning up garbage. They began an oral history project, documenting the history of a gathering place in the middle of the Lower East Side’s ethnic and cultural cross-currents. And Thursday night, they updated Community Board 3 on their progress.

Coming up on May 16th, coinciding with “My Park Day,” another community event is being planned. It’s a visioning session, designed to get neighbors talking about how they’d like to see the park redesigned. The Hester Street Collaborative will be helping to facilitate the discussion. The LES non-profit has a lot of experience working in the community to help revitalize public spaces. One of the most recent examples: the ongoing reconstruction of the playground in Sara D. Roosevelt Park.

In a related development, students from the Parsons School of Design have also taken an interest in the grassroots park project. Recently, over pizza at Two Boots Tavern on Grand Street, Professor Scott Pobiner led residents in a conversation about Gulick Park’s past, present and future. They talked about some of the problems in the park: the lack of trees, the absence of benches and tables, the wire fence sectioning off one section from the other.  There weren’t a lot of preconceived notions about how the park should be redesigned. The general goal, they seemed to agree, is making Gulick a pleasant and open space that the whole community can enjoy.

Later this month, the Friends of Gulick Park will be meeting with the neighborhood’s elected officials, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, about finding the money for the project. The City Council has allocated $360,000. Parks officials have indicated they’ll need $2 million before beginning to draw up any plans. According to steering committee members, State Senator Daniel Squadron has expressed optimism that more money can be found.

In a presentation to CB3’s Parks Committee Thursday, steering committee member Elizabeth DeGaetano, said the organization welcomed any support the community board could provide.  In its annual list of capital priorities, CB3 called on the city to make Gulick Park a funding priority. She said a top goal of the group is to “unite the community in the renovation effort and advocate for stakeholders’ involvement in the design process.”

If you’re interested in more information about the Friends of Gulick Park, visit their web site.