Responding to our reporting on the dismal conditions of Bensonhurst Park, elected officials slammed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration for excluding all of southern Brooklyn in its Parks budget today.
Councilman Mark Treyger, who is on City Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee, noted that Southern Brooklyn was completely left off of the mayor’s Community Parks Initiative, a program intended to address years of inadequate and or no funding for parks across the city.
“There is no question that we will need partnership with administration to fully renovate Bensonhurst Park, but I would ask the mayor — who says he wants to end the ‘Tale of Two Cities’ — how do leave out an entire region of your city, when in fact your initiative was started to address inequities?” demanded Treyger.
A recent report by Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office found that Bensonhurst Park was among the parks most likely to generate playground injury lawsuits over a 10-year review period.
But the park’s problems are not limited to its playground. When we visited Bensonhurst Park last month, we discovered broken benches, paths obstructed by tree stumps, loose bricks, and bombed out restrooms, among other hazards. After more than a decade of neglect, a full renovation of the park is estimated at upwards of $20 million, according to Treyger.
Treyger and Councilman Vincent Gentile — whose district includes the park — say they are granted a limited capital budget for parks, schools, and recreation, and that even combined, their offices would not be able to scrape together nearly enough to restore the park to its original state. Rather, they say, it will require leadership from the mayor’s office.
Gentile spokesman Justin Brannan said the councilman, along with Treyger and Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey, are “taking a very aggressive approach and exploring various funding options and resources for the next fiscal year.”
“A very substantial investment would need to be made in order to truly return Bensonhurst Park to its full former glory before Hurricane Sandy; however, in the meantime, there is no reason why Bensonhurst Park should look the way it does and Councilman Gentile is working with the Parks Department to clean and spruce things up in time for summer,” he said.
The Parks Department said it has no plans to fully renovate Bensonhurst Park, but has said it will address immediate safety concerns.
“Parks is currently working on repairs to the comfort station at Bensonhurst Park and addressing stump removal and tree replacement citywide. While there are currently no plans for a larger renovation at this park, Parks is always open to working with the community board and local elected officials to identify further opportunities for development,” said Parks spokesperson Maeri Ferguson.