We could all use some good news, right? Well, here’s some. This weekend saw the long awaited debut of the newly refurbished Luther Gulick Park.
Some of the most active members of Friends of Gulick Park gathered yesterday for a low-key, socially distanced celebration of a moment that was 11 years in the making. The park, located alongside the Williamsburg Bridge at Willett Street, just received a $10 million face lift. There’s a new lawn area, lots of seating, refurbished basketball and handball courts, two ping pong tables, new bathrooms and a state-of-the-art play areas for kids of all sizes.
No one had to make a grand announcement about the reopening after the 18 month construction project. When we stopped by Saturday afternoon, the playground was already filled and neighbors were strolling through the park, enjoying a beautiful fall-like afternoon.
It was a pretty emotional day for Dave Bolotsky, the fourth generation Lower East Sider who founded Friends of Gulick Park. He’d been advocating for the project for more than a decade, along with a diverse collection of residents from across the neighborhood. It took a lot of perseverance and patience. Over many years, they lobbied elected officials and government agencies for funding, held countless community building events in the formerly dilapidated park, led a thorough local visioning process and worked closely with the Parks Department on the design.
It was always really important to Dave and his fellow neighborhood organizers that the new Gulick Park, at the crossroads of the Lower East Side, feel like a public place that everyone could enjoy. As he walked through the park, Dave told us it was gratifying to see so many people doing just that on the very first day.
Dave also had words of encouragement for anyone who’s struggled to get something positive done in their neighborhood: Don’t give up!
Photo courtesy of City Council member Margaret Chin. That’s Bolotsky in the middle, in the blue jacket.
Have you ever walked past an eyesore in your neighborhood and thought, “I should do something about that?” Well, this is exactly what happened to fourth generation Lower East Sider Dave Bolotsky. A decade ago, he got so tired of the sorry state of Luther Gulick Park, located behind his apartment building, Bolotsky decided it was time to spring into action. Yesterday, his persistence and determination paid off.
There was a groundbreaking Tuesday morning, kicking off a $10 million refurbishment of the park at Delancey and Willett streets. City Council member Margaret Chin, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, reps from Community Board 3 and third graders from P.S. 110 were all on hand for the big event.
When the project is finished next year, there will be an open lawn area, new seating, separate playgrounds for toddlers and older children and active recreation areas for basketball, handball and table tennis. There will also be a new comfort station (bathrooms).
Council member Chin put out a press release after yesterday’s groundbreaking. Referring to those early overtures from Bolotsky and friends, Chin recalled, “…we both recognized that the neighborhood deserved a green space, but that Luther Gulick Park could not meet this need in its current state. Eventually, David founded the Friends of Gulick Park and, working with the Parks Department and other local leaders, we were able to secure the fundingneeded for the reconstruction of the park. Today’s groundbreaking signifies the culmination of these efforts and sends a message that every New York neighborhood deserves a truly communal space to call their own.”
Funding was provided by the City Council, Manhattan Borough President and State Department of Transportation. The project is expected to be completed in 18 months.
Just a couple of months after The Lo-Down came into being, in June of 2009, a grass-roots campaign to revitalize Luther Gulick Park on Sheriff Street caught our attention. Almost a decade later, reconstruction of the neglected space alongside the Williamsburg Bridge is finally about to begin.
According to a Parks Department spokesperson, the $9.9 million project will commence in March, with completion expected in 2020. Plans call for an open lawn area, new seating, separate playgrounds for toddlers and older children and active recreation areas for basketball, handball and table tennis. There will also be a new comfort station (bathrooms). The sidewalks and fencing around the park will be replaced as part of the revamp.
Gulick Park had been overlooked for years when local resident Dave Bolotsky decided to do something about the desolate patch behind the Hillman Houses. Before long, neighbors from the Grand Street Cooperatives as well as residents north of Delancey Street began hosting community gatherings, planting parties and planning meetings in the park. They eventually formed Friends of Gulick Park, and raised millions of dollars from city, state and federal sources.
Bolotsky, a fourth generation Lower East Side resident, is grateful the project is now happening, even if it took a decade to put all of the pieces together. “I’m thankful to the Parks Department, to our elected officials and, most of all, to our volunteers and neighbors on the Lower East Side for their dedication to this project and persistence over all these years,” said Bolotsky. “In the not too distant future, we can all look forward to enjoying a beautiful new Luther Gulick Park, a true community space designed to benefit our entire neighborhood.”
The reconstruction of Gulick Park went out to bid in early 2018, although final designs were approved way back in 2014. A groundbreaking ceremony is likely sometime in the spring.
Nine years after local residents began advocating for the renovation of Luther Gulick Park, the Parks Department is finally ready to put the project out for bid.
According to the grass roots organization, Friends of Gulick Park, the project will be posted next month. “If all goes well,” a message on the group’s Facebook page, notes, “a contractor will be selected by March, construction will begin in the fall and we will have a new park by 2020.”
Following a lengthy community visioning process, the Parks Department unveiled final revamp plans in 2014. You can see the renderings here. Workers have already begun to construct new bathrooms, which hopefully will be finished sooner.
Gulick Park is located just south of Delancey Street at Willett Street.
There will be fall celebrations at two neighborhood parks this weekend.
“It’s My Park Day” comes to Luther Gulick Park on Sunday from 2-4 p.m. There will be pumpkin painting, face painting, bulb planting and snacks. It will be the last event in the park, located at Willett and Delancey streets, before the public space closes for a year-long renovation.
A similar event takes place at Corlears Hook Park on Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. On group participating is, In Tandem, a non-profit that runs cycling programs for people with disabilities. After the group’s Daffodil Ride in Central Park, they’ll be cycling down to the Lower East Side to plant daffodils in a bed at Corlears Hook. Here’s the Facebook invite. NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER
L.E.S. resident Jac Zagoory sent us these photos from It’s My Park Day in Gulick Park. The event was hosted by Friends of Gulick Park and included pumpkin painting, bulb planting, face painting and a ping-pong tournament.
On Thursday, we posted a photo from the ribbon cutting at the Hester Street Playground, which has just undergone a nearly $5 million transformation. But this weekend we wanted to return to the subject for a few reasons.
For starters, several of the participants noted, in casual conversation, that it was nice to have something to celebrate. In this season of budget cuts and protests, community activists and city officials came together for an uplifting event. For an hour, at least, everyone was able to appreciate what Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe called a “textbook example of cooperation.”
Those resourceful community organizers battling to restore Luther Gulick Park have a new weapon in their arsenal — ping pong! The group is pulling out all the stops for “Take Back Our Park Day” on May 16th. Now, in an effort to enliven one of the city’s most neglected spaces, the Friends of Gulick Park have launched a campaign on Kickstarter for an outdoor ping pong table.
The other day, in combing the web in search of all things LES, we stumbled across something interesting. Last Year to Live: an experiment in making every day matter is not your average blog. It is the compelling diary of a Lower East Side resident participating in a “Year to Live” study group, which meets once a month at the Village Zendo in Soho. The author, who initially kept her identity a mystery, is quite healthy. As she explains on her blog, the project is actually an “exercise in living.”
So what does all of this have to do with the LES? Take a look at her April 21st post:
Earlier this month, residents gathered in Luther Gulick Park on Delancey Street for a community day. The objective was to help galvanize the neighborhood to push for the revitalization of of the park, one of the city's most blighted public spaces. Councilmember Alan Gerson has allocted $400-thousand for the project. The Parks Department says design work cannot begin until the city comes forward with at least $1 million. Longtime LES resident Dave Bolotsky has formed the Friends of Gulick Park, a group dedicated to rallying the neighborhood's diverse factions to turn the park into an urban oasis and vibrant community gathering place. Here's a video clip from the community day event, featuring Friends of Gulick Park member Tim Garcia and Bolotsky: