10 years later, still no park for Sheepshead neighbors. They’ve lost hope.
Residents of Sheepshead Bay aren't holding their breath for the opening of Brigham Street Park.
The lot at the corner of Brigham Street and Emmons Avenue in Brooklyn has sat vacant for more than a decade while talk of a park persisted for just as long. But even after a year of construction, many locals say they’ll believe it when they see it.
“They’re so slow; you don’t know what they’re doing,” said Frank Devito, a resident who remembers chatter about putting a park in the lot next to Plumb Beach in Sheepshead Bay as far back as 40 years ago. He’s not holding his breath, and his neighbors don’t know much about what’s going on at the site either.
“I would love to know what the plan is,” said Val Cash, who lives in an apartment across the street, overlooking the lot. Cash has also lived in the neighborhood for decades and raised his daughter, now 31, across the street from the lot. He said he looks forward to a park and is glad the space won’t be used for housing.
The Brigham Street Park project officially started in July 2011, but was delayed after Hurricane Sandy a year later even though no construction had taken place yet. A redesign, needed to adapt to the city’s new environmental guidelines after the storm, took place until July 2017. Like residents, officials recognize the obstacles included when working within the city government framework.
“Knowing the way the city operates, this is nothing extraordinary,” said Theresa Scavo, chairperson for Community Board 15.
She said the Parks Department told her the Brigham Street Park wouldn’t be done until the spring of 2021 — 10 years after the project officially started. A representative for the Parks Department denied this, saying that they still expect it will be completed this coming May.
Former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who served from 2002-2012, said that while current Parks leadership has done a lot to speed things up, the red tape around every project is a major barrier.
“There are so many places where the thing slows down or can grind to a halt,” Benepe said. “A small or moderately funded project is just as complicated” as a larger one.
Scavo believes that Parks should be able to start the design process before they have acquired a complete budget for a project. Currently, all money must be raised or allocated before a project gets the green light.
The Brigham Street Park project has a budget of more than $6 million, funded both by members of the City Council and the Mayor’s Office. This budget has ballooned over the decade that the project has been in the works, after originally starting at $3.5 million, according to a 2013 report.
“If they had the money that long, what took them [so long]?” asked Cash. He said it looked like construction only started over the summer, even though officially it started in November 2018.
The contractor’s project manager, James Pavelchak, said that bureaucracy is built into the expected construction time on government projects. But once they’ve got everything they need, “we throw our men and our equipment at it, and we get it done,” he said.
Benepe pointed out the need for signatures and approvals from various other city offices as a major cause of delays in his experience as commissioner.
“There are a lot of fingers in this pie,” he said.
Scavo said that despite the delays, the community board has not heard frustration or complaints from neighbors about the project.
“They’re looking at it as, soon, we’re going to have a park,” said Scavo.
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