This ‘pile of trash’ Red Hook street is at the center of a half-century-old dispute
'It looks like the berm in Brooklyn Bridge Park.'
An abandoned roadway, now an eyesore and dumping ground, is at the center of a longtime standoff between the Department of Transportation, community members and the city Parks Department.
Walking past a portion of Halleck Street in Red Hook reveals overgrown shrubbery, graffiti covered walls and trash strewn about. Stray cats and the occasional homeless person take shelter among the vegetation. Athletes from the adjacent soccer field relieve themselves in the bushes.
“It’s just rubble,” said Glenn Kelly, a longtime activist and chairman of Community Board 6’s parks committee. “It’s just this big pile of trash that has piled up that’s all overgrown. It looks like the berm in Brooklyn Bridge Park, except it’s lower.”
The street is under the jurisdiction of DOT, but the organization has done little, if anything, to clean up the property despite pleas from residents and Parks Department employees.
“DOT doesn’t want to take responsibility for it because there’s no way of knowing what’s in there,” Kelly told the Brooklyn Eagle. “There could be drums full of poison as far as we know. Everybody is waiting for someone else to take action. In the meantime, nothing happens.”
“For at least 48 years,” he added, “that street has not been used and it just attracted a lot of debris to the point where DOT has sealed it off with concrete barriers and fences so that the debris cannot continue to pile up.”
Now, Kelly is renewing a half-century-old request to have the roadway — which runs perpendicular to Clinton and Court streets — cleaned, renovated and reused.
At a CB6 meeting on Wednesday, a motion overwhelmingly passed in support of DOT taking immediate action to clean, de-map and transfer the roadway to the Parks Department as an expansion of Red Hook Park.
And with the Red Hook ball fields currently closed due to a $105 million remediation plan to treat widespread soil contamination, Kelly says action should be taken right away.
“Now’s the time to do it,” Kelly said. “The city is spending over $100 million remediating and renovating all of the fields in Red Hook. If we ignore this again beyond the plan to remediate and renovate Field 1, which is adjacent, then nothing’s going to be done. Once the next phase is done, we’ve lost an opportunity.”
CB6 will send a letter to DOT urging the organization to clean the street and cede authority of the roadway. But the Parks Department may be unwilling to take over any other responsibilities without additional funding, Kelly said, because the agency is already “spread too thin as it is.”
If DOT ultimately agrees to hand over the property, the mayor or Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, whose district includes Red Hook, will have to agree to incorporate the street into the recreation area in advance of the next phase of renovation.
“Our goal is to always follow the community’s lead, so we will begin coordinating with relevant agencies to see what is feasible,” a spokesperson for Menchaca told the Eagle. “In the short term, DOT should certainly clean the street and maintain their property if it poses a health or safety hazard, and we will advocate for that immediately.”
DOT did not respond to a request for comment, but the agency’s Deputy Press Secretary Alana Morales said there is not currently a City Map Change Request for Halleck Street.
Mike Racioppo, district manager of CB6, reiterated the board’s support for Kelly’s call-to-arms.
“Our Parks Committee led by Glenn Kelly has been troubled by the neglected character of this street for years, and we are happy to seize on the opportunity to create additional parkland,” Racioppo said.
Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.
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