Commodore Barry Park gets revamp plan

Elected officials and members of the New York City Parks Department met this past Tuesday to announce a long-requested redesign of Brooklyn’s oldest park, Commodore Barry Park.

The two proposed reconstruction projects for Commodore Barry Park would completely redesign the space, adding additional greenery, a new baseball field, a new football field, and state-of-the-art lights for nighttime activities. These measures are meant to improve the safety and accessibility of the historic community space.

“We are excited to take the initial steps in reimagining and revitalizing Commodore Barry Park,” said New York City Parks Department Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver at Tuesday’s event. “As commissioner, I’ve prioritized working to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to quality parks, and I know how vital this greenspace is to the community it serves. We look forward to eventually breaking ground on these projects and improving these treasured assets.”

New York State Attorney General Letitia James, Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Martin Maher, Community Board 2 Parks Committee Chair Barbara Zahler-Gringer and other community leaders were also present at Tuesday’s unveiling event. Other elected officials, including Borough President and likely-Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams, offered statements afterwards.

“One thing that COVID-19 reiterated to us is that open spaces and parks are the great backyards for communities throughout New York City,” Adams wrote.

City Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo followed suit, adding: “With the increasing focus on the importance of our physical and mental health, the reconstruction of Commodore Barry Park will provide numerous opportunities for community members to exercise, play and relax. I am especially thrilled that our children and our seniors will have a space that is beautiful, easily accessible, close, and safe for them to enjoy.”

The reconstruction projects for the park are planning to rely on a variety of financial sources. Currently, Mayor Bill de Blasio has committed $11.47 to the project while Borough President Adams has committed $800,000. A New York State grant was also awarded to the city Parks Department to pursue the redevelopment.

Officially founded in 1836, Commodore Berry Park is named in honor of the famed American naval officer who helped found the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It is the oldest park in the borough, dating back to Brooklyn’s time as an independent city.

Con Edison to build clean energy hub in Gowanus

New York energy giant Con Edison is planning on converting an empty lot in Brooklyn into a hub of clean energy. The new site (located at 223 Nevins Street in Gowanus) will feature a battery storage energy system with 18 publicly available electric vehicle charging stations, a departure from the company’s traditional fossil-fuel focus.

For the project, Con Edison is partnering with the award-winning energy company Centrica Business Solutions. Centrica will design, build, own and operate a 5-megawatt/15-megawatt hour battery system and 18 direct-current fast chargers at the site. The storage system, which will be in trailers, will hold 5 million watts, enough to power about 5,000 apartments for four hours during a summer peak.

The system is designed to be noiseless and promises on emitting zero pollutants, a nice change of pace for a neighborhood that holds the nation’s most contaminated waterway (the Gowanus Canal).

“Our hub will help make service to our customers in the area more reliable, provide drivers with an easily accessible place to charge, and spruce up a vacant lot,” explained Con Edison Chief Executive Tim Cawley. “This project is unique in that it pairs an energy storage system with electric vehicle chargers, two technologies that will each play a big role in our clean energy future.”

Chris Covell, the head of Centrica Business Solutions North America division, echoed a similar sentiment.

“Once complete this will be one of the largest charging hubs anywhere in the city and the only one combined with a battery energy storage system. This kind of infrastructure project is vital to encourage the switch to electric vehicles and will help New York become greener and more resilient for future generations.”

Once construction is completed at the hub, Con Edison will connect the battery system and chargers to its grid and install transformers and other equipment. Centrica will sell services from the batteries into the wholesale markets as part of its optimized virtual power plant.

Con Edison’s new hub isn’t the only energy project making headlines in Brooklyn. National Grid’s plan to build a new pipeline in North Brooklyn has received heavy criticism from activists who protest the project’s reliance on fossil fuels and potential impact on air qualities. North Brooklyn residents are also upset that the pipeline would correlate with an increase in National Grid’s rates in the area.

Additionally, the city’s proposal for a massive rezoning in Gowanus was recently accepted by Community Boards 6 and 2. This change will open up the neighborhood to massive amounts of new development, which will surely increase the area’s energy needs.

Con Edison’s website currently boasts an ambitious plan for a sustainable energy future, yet it is yet to be seen how the company plans on addressing the Gowanus rezoning and other large building projects throughout the city.

Controversial Gowanus Rezoning is finally approved

On Thursday June 24, Community Boards 6 and 2 voted to approve the proposed Gowanus rezoning by a margin of 26 votes in favor and 6 opposed, with 2 abstaining board members.

The hearing comes on the heels of a months-long controversy surrounding the rezoning of a large majority of Gowanus. The land-use proposal was originally conceived by ex-Mayor Bloomberg but has found new life under Mayor de Blasio. It would see 80 square blocks of the neighborhood rezoned to make way for new developments, including the controversial plan to build a complex on the highly polluted “Public Place” site along the Gowanus Canal.

Community groups including Voice of Gowanus have constantly fought against the rezoning. Their criticism was directed at both the legal process to approve the rezoning and the environmental risks that could come along with new development.

The group successfully secured a temporary restraining order that prevented the rezoning from entering the land-use review process. However, New York Supreme Court Justice Katherine Levine ruled to allow the city to continue with the public review process so long as an in-person hearing option was offered for those without internet access.

Earlier in the month, Community Boards 6 and 2 held a hybrid public hearing with virtual and in-person components to gather community feedback about the rezoning. Last week, the Community Boards reviewed the feedback and voted in favor of a conditional approval.

Additionally, the Boards created a 14 page document with community-enhancing conditions that they deemed necessary for the approval. These include (but are not limited to) increased capital investment for NYCHA development, a commitment to long-term community oversight, a full EPA review of contaminated sites, an expansion of the Gowanus Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), and a restoration of the B71 bus routes.

Special attention was paid to the issue of affordable housing. The Board’s document requests that 20 percent of the available units be put aside for households making 40 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI, a measure used throughout the city to determine affordability) and 25 percent of units for households making 60 percent of the AMI.

These rates are lower than those required under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), the de Blasio administration’s affordable housing program. MIH has been sharply criticized by many politicians and activists who blame the program for expediting displacement and gentrification in working-class neighborhoods throughout the city.

Many of the Board’s conditions are in-line with the community feedback gathered at the public hearing.

“I thought there was very, very insightful testimony that informed our committee’s deliberation, and really moving testimony,” Alec Schierenbeck, the Community Board 6 Land Use Committee chair, said at the meeting.

He continued: “From people who’ve lived in our neighborhood for decades, people who wished they could live in our neighborhood if they could afford it. People who are concerned about environmental degradation that’s happened for decades which has necessitated all kinds of changes in the zoning code, try to improve the state of affairs, and want real EPA oversight. And I think that those voices were reflected in the resolution.”

Gowanus City Council Member and the current leader in the Democratic Comptroller race Brad Lander expressed his satisfaction with the deal as well. However, with a new City Council heading to office this fall it is yet to be seen if support for the Gowanus Rezoning will continue. The current leaders in the race for District 39 (which encompasses Gowanus), Shahana Hanif and Brandon West, both told our paper that they supported the project so long as it maintained a commitment to affordability and environmental safety.

In order to ensure accountability, the Community Boards have requested that the city support and fund a Gowanus Zoning Commitment Task Force.
“The Task Force will monitor compliance with public and private commitments, adherence to zoning requirements, and implementation of the Rezoning,” the Community Boards wrote in their list of conditions. “With representation from local organizations, city agencies, and stakeholders, the Task Force will receive quarterly updates from the city and other stakeholders on planning, implementation, and successful completion of commitments, and disseminate this information to the community in a transparent and accessible manner.”

Butchie Nemirka

Butchie Nemirka passed away on Sunday, June 27, 2021 at the age of 82. Loving Father of Denise (Sam) Franzo, and Lisa (Danny) Amantea and Father-in-Law of Charles. Cherished Grandfather of Brittany, Charles and Angelica. Loving Companion of Madeline. Dear Uncle and Great Uncle. Mr. Nemirka was a United States Army Veteran & a member of the Frank Kowalinski Post #44 of Maspeth. In Lieu of Flowers, donations may be made to the veteran’s organization of your choice. Funeral Services held at Papavero Funeral Home on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 from 4-8 PM. Private Cremation followed at Fresh Pond Crematory, Middle Village, NY under the direction of Papavero Funeral Home, 72-27 Grand Avenue, Maspeth, NY 11378.

John F. Gawley

John F. Gawley passed away on Thursday, June 24, 2021 at the age of 84. Beloved Husband of the late Margaret M. Gawley. Loving Father of John Gawley, Noreen Gawley, Judy Gawley, Michael (Christine) Gawley & Denis Gawley. Cherished Grandfather of William, Brenna, Michael and Brigid. Dear Brother of Joe Gawley, Peggy Rice and the late Rosemarie Rogan. Mr. Gawley was a First Sergeant United States Marine Corps Veteran and retired NYPD Police Officer. Mass of Christian Burial offered at St. Mary’s Church on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 at 10:30 AM. Private Cremation followed at Fresh Pond Crematory, Middle Village, NY under the direction of Papavero Funeral Home, 72-27 Grand Avenue, Maspeth, NY 11378.

Jerome F. Drake

Jerome F. Drake passed away on Thursday, June 24, 2021 at the age of 82. Beloved Father of Dara and Mark Drake. Devoted Husband of Debbie. Cherished Grandfather of Victoria and Rebecca. Mr. Drake was a United States Army Veteran and retired NYC Department of Education Music Teacher. Private Cremation held on Friday, June 25, 2021 at Fresh Pond Crematory, Middle Village, NY. Memorial Visitation at Papavero Funeral Home on Monday, June 28, 2021 fro 4-8 PM under the direction of Papavero Funeral Home, 72-27 Grand Avenue, Maspeth, NY 11378

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