A Greener Gowanus: Lander and leaders celebrate groundbreaking at St. Mary’s Park

Playground Is the Latest Project to Transform the Neighborhood

August 16, 2017 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Brad Lander speaks on Tuesday at the groundbreaking of St. Mary’s Park. The area will feature a multi-purpose synthetic turf field, an adult fitness area, a skating rink, basketball courts, a running track and a children’s play area. Photo courtesy of Councilmember Lander’s office
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Gowanus is known for its notoriously polluted green canal, but the neighborhood may soon be recognized for being viridescent in a more positive way.

On Tuesday, Councilmember Brad Lander and community leaders celebrated the groundbreaking of St. Mary’s Park, a former playground located on Smith Street between Huntington and Luquer streets.

The play area, which is situated in Carroll Gardens on the Gowanus border, sits underneath the elevated subway tracks for the F/G trains known as the Culver Viaduct.

The 0.37-acre park opened in the late 1960s as a modest fenced-in playground, with basketball courts added several years later. The grounds had a children’s play area, but it was primarily known for being dirty, loud and sparsely used.

In 2009, the park was closed and demolished as part of MTA’s rehabilitation of the Culver Viaduct above.

At the time, MTA pledged to fund the reconstruction after repairs were done, but the transit organization only provided $850,000, or one-third, of the capital needed.

With the help of Lander and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, however, the Parks Department was able to secure an additional $1.85 million in city funds.

“St. Mary’s Park will be a great new place for neighbors to gather and kids to play,” said Lander on Tuesday.

“It’s an important part of our broader community planning work to improve the parks and open spaces around the Gowanus Canal, [and] to make sure that Gowanus is a vibrant, sustainable, mixed-use neighborhood for decades to come.”

The northern half of the playground will feature a multipurpose synthetic turf field, an adult fitness area, a skating rink, basketball courts and a running track.

The southern section will have several different variations of jungle gyms and climbing nets.

“Our administration saw this as an opportunity to invest in existing open space and bring St. Mary’s Park into a state where it can properly serve an underserved community,” Adams told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“This park is a good linkage to unite disparate parts of this neighborhood, and its restoration will be a great complement to our ongoing community-driven process to plan the future of this neighborhood,” Adams continued. “Reinvigorating this playground helps us create a safer place to raise healthy children and families.”

The park was designed by community resident Paige Bellenabum and other neighborhood leaders.


An Encouraging Trend

In addition to the restoration of St. Mary’s Park, there are several other ongoing projects to beautify Gowanus.  

The Gowanus Canal Conservancy (GCC) released plans in June for a new state-of-the-art park along the Gowanus Canal dubbed the “Gowanus Lowlands.” It will feature sloping grassy knolls, bridges, elevated scenic overlooks, maritime meadows, performance spaces, cafes, picnic areas, boathouses and playgrounds.

“We’re excited to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Saint Mary’s Park, which will enliven Smith Street and provide much-needed park space for Gowanus and Carroll Gardens neighbors,” said Executive Director of GCC Andrea Parker.

“This investment by Councilmember Lander and the Parks Department is a critical step towards building the Gowanus Lowlands network of parks, open spaces and greened corridors framing a clean Gowanus Canal,” she said.

The Gowanus Lowlands will join several other recent green infrastructure projects along the canal.

The Gowanus Canal Sponge Park and 70 curbside rain gardens were installed in November along the waterway in order to improve the health of the canal, clean the air around it and embellish the neighborhood.

The Sponge Park will collect an estimated 1 million gallons of stormwater annually. The rain gardens will have the capacity to collect and absorb more than 6 million gallons of stormwater each year.

In addition, the Fran Brady Under the Tracks Playground on 10th Street between Second and Third avenues, which was closed in the late ’90s by MTA, is slated to reopen with new seating, greenery and basketball courts.

The Gowanus Alliance hopes to install the letters from the famous “Kentile Floors” sign on 10-foot-high planters in the Fran Brady Under the Tracks Playground.

The Ennis Playground on 11th Street and Second Avenue will also be receiving a $2.5 million upgrade. Adams’ office donated $650,000 and Lander contributed $1.85 million to that project. Construction is slated to begin in 2018.

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