Dave Bolotsky has a dream: he wants to see Luther Gulick Park at Delancey and Willett Streets transformed from an eyesore to an urban oasis. There’s no doubt most everyone in the neighborhood shares his dream. But It became apparent early during last night’s community meeting- which Bolotsky organized- that reaching a consensus about the details will not be easy.
About 75 residents huddled around Parks official Bob Redmond, the subway rumbling across the Williamsburg Bridge. They took turns with a megaphone, speaking out about the future of a park, which has suffered from years of neglect. Many people in attendance remembered Luther Gullick’s glory days- a beautiful sitting area, a fountain that became an ice rink in the winter, chess tables, lush trees. Redmond explained that benches and tables were removed in the 1980’s, due to complaints from neighbors that the park had become a raucus cocktail lounge. Diseased trees were cut down about 10 years ago.
The meeting got off to a contentious start when one resident became agitated, complaining that adequate notice was not given about the meeting. Richard Ropiak of Community Board 3 shot back that information had been distrubuted several days ago. Redmond assured the man he would be happy to come back for another meeting, if anyone requested it. Another resident expressed concerns about late night noise in the park and smoke from barbeque grills that people set up on the weekends. The park borders the Hillman Housing Cooperative.
Redmond said no official planning would take place until the project is funded. He suggested the neighborhood lobby City Councilman Alan Gerson to make that happen. But Redmond was interested to hear ideas from the community, nonetheless. People in attendance said they wanted to see “lots of greenery and trees,” a wrought iron fence, bathrooms, a space for parents to play ball with their kids and an open design. Right now the park is divided by an old chain link fence – handball courts bordering Delancey, a playground on one end, basketball courts in the middle and a desolate area where the benches and tables used to be. In order to walk from one end to the other, you have to go out on to Delancey Street.
Redmond said the job would cost about $2 million and take two years to design and complete. A represenantive from Councilman Gerson’s office was optimistic about the project. She urged residents and, especially their kids, to write to Gerson in support of finding the money spruce up the park.
Bolotsky and other organizers are now coming up with a strategy to find common ground in the neighborhood and convince officials to allocate the money needed for the refurbishing.
Anyone interested in joining the Luther Gulick park campaign can email Dave Bolotsky: email@example.com.
To reach Alan Gerson’s office, call 212-788-7722.