The construction of new parkland in conjunction with private development is often promoted by the current generation of government and business leaders as an attractive alternative to traditional park construction. In cash-strapped times these, so-called financially self-sustaining, projects are perceived by many as an attractive arrangement between the developer and taxpayer. A developer gets use of land for little or no money and taxpayers get new parkland that’s maintained by the developer
That’s exactly the kind of deal that was struck between Home Depot and the Parks Department when the corporation was looking to develop on land abutting the newly created Calvert Vaux Park.
Calvert Vaux Park (formerly known as Dreier-Offerman Park) is located just south of Cropsey Avenue between Bay 44th and Bay 49th streets. It’s named after the co-designer of both Central and Prospect Parks.
When Home Depot sought approval from various agencies, particularly Community Board 13, in order to build a store at 2970 Cropsey Avenue, they submitted a plan that included waterfront access through the construction of two paths. According to the plan, Home Depot would then maintain the land containing these paths for public use.
In reality, after the construction phase of the project was completed, these paths were neither maintained nor available for the public’s use during normal park hours. Despite an understanding that these paths would be open during the hours in which Calvert Vaux Park was open, this area remains surrounded by a fence and often closed to park goers.
The Department of City Planning report on improving Vaux Park points out that the Home Depot path is “inadequately designed” and “could be improved and widened.”
The non-binding promises a large corporation makes when looking to open a store and the actual outcome are often two very different things. The lessons CB 13 and area residents can learn from this project could likewise be useful in making future decisions concerning area development.
Proponents of a future BJ’s Wholesale Club at 1752 Shore Parkway are currently using the possibility of building and maintaining parkland for the public’s use as an attractive part of their plan. What are the chances of something like this happening to the BJ’s project? Both decision-makers and the public should heed the lessons of Vaux Park and keep in mind the possibility of a similar outcome.
This situation was brought to Bensonhurst Bean’s attention by readers Lisanne Anderson and nolastname. Lisanne and nolastname provided official documents, as well as photos of the site showing the Home Depot pathway and waterfront area is both not maintained and often inaccessible.
Thanks, Lisanne and nolastname! Your time and effort; including photographs, notes and expertise are what made this story possible.