No question about it. This is a great day to play hooky. State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senator Daniel Squadron did just that this morning on the basketball court at Luther Gulick Park on Willett Street. There was, of course, serious business to discuss. But then again, how could the Speaker (a basketball fanatic) pass up a chance to practice his jump shot?
Silver, Squadron and Parks Department officials met with local residents from the newly formed organization, Friends of Gulick Park. For the past several months, they have been campaigning to give this neglected space alongside the Williamsburg Bridge a facelift. Everyone agrees the park is long overdue for some TLC. The big question now: where will the money come from to get the job done.
Last year, former City Councilmember Alan Gerson said he would commit $360,000 to the project. Today, Squadron added another $100,000. Silver said his office would work on finding more money. And representatives of Borough President Scott Stringer and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney promised to do the same.
Namshik Yoon, Parks Dept. chief of operations, said rehabilitating the park, its exterior and building bathrooms would cost around $6 million. The elected officials said they hoped work would begin before all of the money is raised. But it is not clear how much money the city will require before that can occur.
The group walked around the perimeter of Gulick Park this morning, and stopped at the basketball court. Silver, who grew up steps away from this spot, was captain of his high school basketball team and has never lost his zeal for the game. He learned to play on the Gulick Playground court.
It was quite a sight — the powerful Speaker of the Assembly shooting basketball with Squadron, a freshman senator. Silver did a bit of reminiscing, showing a reporter a scar under his chin — all that remains of a fight on the swing set when he was a boy.
With that, it was back to work. Squadron praised the residents for taking the initiative to fix up the park. Next up: a community visioning day May 16th. You can see our most recent story on the park campaign here, or check out the Friends of Gulick Park’s web site.