Two Bridges Awarded Grant For Rain Garden; Not Everyone is Enthused

82 rutgers garden rendering 2

Rendering shows proposed garden at 82 Rutgers St. Image from: dlandstudio.

The Two Bridges Neighborhood Council recently received a grant from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection to create a rain garden at a residential building it co-owns at 82 Rutgers Slip.   The people who run the non-profit organization believe it’s a sound strategy to deal with flooding and storm water issues during future “weather events” such as Hurricane Sandy. But the proposal is proving controversial among some of the people who live in the complex, located next door to the shuttered Pathmark store on South Street.

The garden, depicted in the rendering you see above, would replace a private playground which sits at the corner of South Street and Rutgers Slip.  The play equipment typically gets very hot in the summer months because the area is exposed to direct sunlight. Kids have been burned and poked by sharp metal pieces that jut out from the play surfaces.

The current playground at 82 Rutgers St.

The current playground at 82 Rutgers St.

Photo: dlandstudio.

Photo: dlandstudio.

According to Kerri Culhane, Two Bridges’ associate director, the Green Infrastructure Grant would facilitate the construction of a porous garden, including new landscaping, seating areas, an open lawn area that could accommodate a “play space” and a bamboo wall along South Street.  The garden, designed by Brooklyn’s dlandstudio, could manage about 8700 gallons of water during a storm, diverting run-off from the roof of the building and, more important, keeping it out of storm drains.  The idea, in part, is to prevent sewage from draining into the East River, a goal with obvious environmental benefits.

The controversy has, apparently arisen due to concerns about the amount and kind of outreach that was done last year within the building, known as Two Bridges Towers.  Elaine Hoffman, a tenant leader, asked, “What is a rain garden? What are they going to do?”  In a phone interview yesterday, she said building management should “fix the playground” instead of replacing it.  The plan, she indicated, was discovered by another tenant who happened to be looking at Two Bridges’ web site.  A memo was distributed in the past several days describing the garden project and telling residents that “safer age-appropriate playground structures (would remain) available immediately across Rutgers Slip” adjacent to another Two Bridges building.

Trever Holland, who has emerged as a tenant leader in recent months,  also expressed concerns, saying a survey conducted in January of 2012 did not make it clear management was moving to replace the playground and very few tenants were interviewed, especially Chinese-speaking residents.  The bottom line, he said, is that Two Bridges, circumvented tenants, pursuing its own agenda. A petition opposing the plan is being circulated and includes, we’re told,  more than 200 signatures.  Local elected officials have been contacted about the situation, as well.  There have been a series of contentious conversations about the project in recent days.

Culhane said, during an interview yesterday, that staff conducting the survey went door-to-door and were accompanied by a Chinese translator.  A Headstart program, based in the Two Bridges complex, was also consulted.  In the surveys, she explained, tenants expressed support for a green space and said there was a need for more outdoor seating.  Renderings, meant for illustrative purposes, did not show the play space within the garden, but it was always the intention to have one, she added.

Work on the garden is scheduled to begin next spring after final approval from the Department of Environmental Protection.

  • LifeLongLES

    Perhaps the reason why they want to eliminate the park is that they are afraid of more people getting hurt. Last summer some inhumane person through an object out of their apartment window (which faces the park). The incident resulted in serious injury and a visit to the emergency room. I would not use that park even if it was the best one on the block, out of fear of being injured by a falling object.

  • Marlon

    That is NOT the reason although they’ve indicated that they already addressed this problem with high tech cameras. They are not getting rid of the resident space-only attempting to eliminate the playground equipment without any resident or community support. Residents were originally told (or,”sold”) that they would be getting brand new, safe, playground equipment. That “threat” will still be there (as it may be with any high rise) considering that there will be some type of open space with seating, gardening, etc. Although that is not even certain since the plan was kept secret from residents for over two years and the only details were just released online. All the residents want is transparency and some input on the design and implementation of such a massive project that will affect their livelihood. I’m still not sure how they secured a grant without telling any of the residents. In addition to the many families in the building, 60 or so toddlers from our resident Headstart program have used that play equipment every seasonable day for years.

  • Marlon

    Additionally, the playground across the street is not owned nor managed by Two Bridges. That is a private playground run by another building. Even with permission to use (assuming liability, insurance, etc.), construction of the upcoming new Healthcare Center will close this playground for years. Then where are the kids supposed to play? And note the careful use of the word, “play space” as opposed to “playground”. A parking lot or sidewalk could be described as, “play space”.

  • RMGDN

    I agree with you. This park is not safe for anybody. We have a few parks around this area where our kids can play safety. Well that is my opinion.