By Dusica Sue Malesevic
It may be a drop in the bucket compared to the grand total of $78.5 billion — but the amount allotted to District 3 as part of the budget recently passed by the City Council will make all the difference for a variety of grassroots efforts and improvement projects.
Each councilmember got $5 million, explained Councilmember Corey Johnson, who had already earmarked $1 million to fund winning projects from District 3’s first-ever participatory budgeting process, for which voting was held in April.
Johnson has solidified plans for the remaining $4 million in discretionary capital.
$700,000 went to Hudson Guild to renovate their Fulton Senior Center at 119 Ninth Ave. (btw. 17th & 18th Sts.). It will be a complete renovation, said Johnson, which will include bringing in air conditioning.
“It is going to be a brand new, gorgeous senior center once it’s renovated,” said Johnson.
Three community composting centers for the district received $105,000 in funding. Currently, Johnson’s office is working with community boards and the Department of Sanitation to figure out the sites, which will be in Greenwich Village, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen.
Money also went toward schools in District 3. PS3, which got $35,000 in participatory budgeting for its library, will also receive $100,000 for bathroom renovations. Students at Quest to Learn (351 W. 18th St.) and the James Baldwin School (351 W. 18th St.) will be getting new computers. Each school will receive $35,000 in funding for the technology update.
At elementary school PS212 in Hell Kitchen’s, the playground safety surface will be redone with $40,000.
After nearly five years of petitions, designs and a hearts-and-minds campaign that had local merchants displaying signs of support in their windows, the effort to put a micro park at 136 W. 20th St. (btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.) is one step closer to becoming a reality.
“This has been a neighborhood organizing cause célèbre,” Johnson told Chelsea Now. “It has been years in the making, and my hope is that we’re going be able to get this park built in the next couple years.”In May, it was announced that the park was the top vote-getter in the participatory budgeting process, earning it $200,000 in funding. After the City Council passed its budget at the end of June, Johnson allocated $800,000 for the park.
Matt Weiss, founder of the Friends of 20th Street Park (20thstreetpark.org), started the campaign for the park at the former Department of Sanitation site in September 2010, spurred by the shortage of green space in the neighborhood.
“It’s thrilling,” said Weiss in a phone interview. “I think the community has shown unbelievable support and dedication to this cause from the beginning. It really has struck a nerve in Chelsea and even some areas beyond that — the opportunity to turn a city-owned lot into a public oasis.”
Weiss said that participatory budgeting was a “huge, significant milestone” and noted that the park was the “top vote-getter out of seventeen very worthy projects for the community.
At one time, the site was eyed for affordable housing. Johnson said affordable housing units slated to go on 20th St. are now going up at the former Slaughterhouse site at 493 11th Ave. (btw. W. 39th & W. 40th Sts.). While the exact number of units is not confirmed, it looks like there will be around 225 units at that site instead of the 75 that were expected on 20th St.
“So it’s a win-win for the community. We’re able to get a new community park that the neighborhood has fought for, for so long — and we’re able to get three times the amount of affordable housing at a site on the West Side, in my district,” Johnson said.
With a park project, construction does not begin until full funding is in place, he said. The exact cost is still unknown, but once it is, Johnson said he would work with the city toward getting that funding. The park at 20th St. will cost somewhere in the $3 to $5 million range, he said.
The money will go toward the demolition of the old sanitation building that is currently on the site, likely environmental remediation, and design and construction costs, said Johnson.
Weiss said, “We are excited about the next step. [It] would be really exciting to see, finally see, after five years of hard work, kind of [the] fruits of our labor. I really just look forward to the day when I see children and families, and people from all walks of life, enjoying and using this public amenity.”
Other parks and playgrounds in District 3 that received funding include $775,000 for the renovation of Downing Street Playground, $55,000 for a fence and ADA accessibility for Jane Street Garden, $50,000 for the Leroy Street Dog Run and $65,000 for the Pier 84 Dog Run.
The Chelsea Waterside Park (at W. 23rd St. & 11th Ave.) received $170,000 for playground upgrades. It also won funding through participatory budgeting — $85,000 to create an interactive garden for children.
Funding also went to protecting trees in the district. Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety, or CHEKPEDS, as well as Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association received $7,000, and the Greenwich Village Block Associations received $5,000 to install tree guards.