The abandoned northern end of Bushwick Inlet Park

Published on: March 3rd, 2016 | Last updated: March 9, 2016 Written by:

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In 2005, a large swath of the north Brooklyn waterfront was rezoned. To gain community approval for this rezoning, a large 28 acre park surrounding Bushwick Inlet was promised, and never delivered.


Overview

This article is focused on the northern end of this parkland, though I will touch on the other properties that are in the full park proposal to provide some context into what a muddled fiasco this entire project has become.

History
This northernmost park property has a long, complicated history. It was original the western terminal of the Glendale and East River Railroad. This railroad was incorporated on March 26, 1874 to build a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge line from Greenpoint east to Glendale, Queens. Though a series of transactions, it eventually fell into the hands of the Long Island Rail Road. Reluctant to modernize a route that had a narrow right of way (it could only accommodate one standard gauge track), the LIRR cut the tracks back east to Bushwick in October of 1885 (there were several freight customers in Bushwick – along tracks that eventually came to be known as the ‘evergreen branch’. These tracks were eventually abandoned in 1983).

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Late 1800s map showing the railroad terminal.

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1884 Route Map of the New York and Manhattan Beach railroad, showing the Greenpoint segment of track.

Ownership changed hands several times over the decades, and today the property is owned by Motiva Enterprises LLC, a 50-50 joint venture between Saudi Refining and Shell Oil. Neither of them use this property for anything at all, other than to insult area residents by leaving it a polluted mess.

Much of this property seems to have been left abandoned after the tracks were pulled. A portion of the property on the north shore of the inlet remained cleared and undeveloped except for a dock and bulkhead that have since largely crumbled into the water. This corner of the property is supposed to be home to the Monitor museum, though nothing but a placard and flagpole exist here today. Closer to the street, large trees and tall grasses grew behind a long fence, isolating the land from the water.

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Left to Right: Huge Hole, No Trespass sign, Park sign. Who’s property is this, anyway?

To the south, a thin strip of debris-filled weeds separates this property from the Bayside fuel depot with several large fuel storage tanks. This now closed depot represents one end of the Buckeye pipeline – used to bring jet fuel to LaGuardia and JFK airports. The city owns this property and remediation is expected to take years.

Neighbors and History of the Park Plan
Several community groups and journalists have done amazing work documenting the history of the Bushwick Inlet Park proposal. Today, only one small section of this park exists – located on former BEDT terminal property on Kent Avenue between North 9th and North 10th streets.

The rest of the proposed parkland is split between a storage facility (CitiStorage), former DSNY truck garage / superfund site (since bulldozed), the fuel terminal and the abandoned land that is the subject of this post.

Here’s a handy map:
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On this map, you’ll note the Citistorage facility. These buildings were built after Citistorage grabbed the property in a 1999 auction right out from under the city (and their inept partner, ‘Trust for Public Land’). At the time, The city, along with TPL and NYU, were trying to create one vast park on much of the former BEDT property.

One of the two large warehouses remains, while the other burned in a spectacular fire at the end of January, 2015. The cause of this fire was only recently reported to be a shorted out light that creates sparks. It’s pretty clear why it took a full year for the city to report this fact: There are now multiple lawsuits pending, and the city may share liability. FDNY showed up and put out a small fire that morning – only to be called back to the scene 2 hours later when the same building again erupted in flames. The building’s owner – Norm Brodsky – swears he lost everything in an apartment he lived in on location. Was it Arson? If so, by who? Brodsky claims to have lost everything that night (including reputation), though he didn’t win the public’s sympathy by immediately marketing the property for sale.

Arson is often a real estate owner’s tool of choice for clearing property. It wouldn’t be the first time this happened, resulting in a huge fire, right in this very neighborhood.

Whatever happened that night, one can only wonder if the fire would ever have burned out of control had former mayor Michael Bloomberg not closed down the firehouse that was located just 4 blocks away .

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Destroyed Citistorage warehouse, first week of Feb, 2015.

In the immediate aftermath of this fire, there have been renewed protests in support of the park project. One took place March of 2015, while another took place last august. There is now a dedicated website tracking the progress (or lack thereof) on this park project.

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Protest signage

Today
Today, this park project sits in limbo. Unless activists continue to hold their elected official’s feet to the fire, there will never be a park on this land. The NYC government has a horrible record on creating and especially maintaining parks. In 2010 residents of Maspeth were promised a park on the old St. Saviours church site. Today that land is warehouses. In Forest Hills, the Willow Lake Trail sat completely abandoned and locked up for over 20 years. (It was only reopened after we started reporting on it, and highlighting the waste and fraud involved).

Here’s a few more views from the northernmost property – surrounding the actual inlet.

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Rare Ichabod block letters. Ichabod is one of the US’s best known freight train graffiti writers.

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Abandoned ‘Monitor Museum’ site.

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Locked away from the public, this northwest corner of the site is kept chained up for no good reason.

13 responses to “The abandoned northern end of Bushwick Inlet Park”

  1. Matt says:

    No offense, but you guys are a little late to the BIP fiasco. Sign the petition in the website link, if you haven’t already.

  2. Control says:

    Yeah, people should sign petitions, but writing about it and holding politicians accountable in person & on social media is probably more important. Issues die when no one new reports on them.

    When nothing has changed, there’s no way to actually be ‘late’ to this party. The problems with the north brooklyn waterfront go back to at least the mid 1980s, so by that measure, I’d imagine there are a lot of people ‘late’ to this cause.

  3. StevieC says:

    The land you write about was acquired by the City in late 2015. Motiva, the former owners, donated one acre of their property to the Monitor Museum. The City has now acquired 16 acres of the promised 28(now 27) acre BIP. The CitiStorage property is the last piece remaining. The community is WORKING the admistration. Call or write the Mayor to tell him to make it happen.

  4. Ehmesdee says:

    That Ichabod piece is something else! Nice! And a bit of Civil War history too. Excellent post.

  5. Control says:

    Ah, I didn’t stumble across news of those transactions. Good to know.

    The city finally closed the deal on Bayside this week:
    http://therealdeal.com/2016/03/10/city-pays-53m-for-7-acre-williamsburg-site/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=city-pays-53m-for-7-acre-williamsburg-site

    I was saving writing up more about the Monitor for a write up on the old CF freight building which used to have a placard on the front noting the significance of the location.

    I think my worst fear here is that Citistorage will work out some deal where they get to build at least one tower while agreeing to make part of their property into parkland.

    It is a shame the city didn’t get all of this real estate back in the 90s when they could have had it for very cheap.

  6. StevieC says:

    That fear is everyone’s, however, for now the City has removed upzoning of the CitiStorage property from the table making a residential tower unviable.

    Note the quote from the City: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20151229/REAL_ESTATE/151229962/related-cos-in-talks-for-11-acre-williamsburg-waterfront-site

  7. StevieC says:

    Amazing photos BTW.

    Keep up on the action: http://bushwickinletpark.org

  8. Crumbling piers are some of the only reminders from the shipbuilding industry that used this coastline in the 1800s. “It’s deserted,” said the owner of Pop’s. “They really should build the park. It will make the area a lot nicer.”

  9. ehmesdee says:

    Hey Control, if you ever need someone to help with archival or academic historical research, let me know. I nerd out on it so hard and miss it.

  10. Control says:

    ehmesdee… dude, do I ever. LOL.

  11. Laura Hofmann says:

    The Monitor Museum property is not abandoned.The property wasn’t used as much as it could have been, because of all the time the city wasted in blocking the groups efforts with the threat of eminent domain. Now that the threat has been lifted the group has been able to seek funding to make the property safe for public use.

  12. Control says:

    So – not abandoned, but closed? Is there a timeline for it to open?

    There’s so much info on the site – little hard to keep up with the latest. http://greenpointmonitormuseum.org/

    For those of us out of the loop, casually passing by, maybe a sign on the fence with potential opening, etc would be nice.

    Sad that the city couldn’t even get this small piece of property right.

  13. Laura Hofmann says:

    I can’t officially speak for the Monitor Museum. But I do know that they are receiving a GCEF grant to work on the property. That’s will be a process. Once the property is made safe for the public, I’m sure there will be a process to get funding. But regardless of the current state, they are way ahead of the city just by Motiva donating the land to them in the first place. Had the city been supportive instead of hindering, the site might have been opened already.

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  • About The Author

    Bad Guy Joe

    Bad Guy Joe
    Bad Guy Joe knows more about the NYC underground than anyone else on or below the surface of this planet. He has spent nearly 30 years sneaking into NYC's more forbidden locations. When not underground, he's probably bitching about politicians or building something digital. 
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