Parks—Let’s Have it All


Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul have recently made headlines for their dedication to office-to-residential conversions. In a similar vein, the Land Use Committee of Community Board Two expressed their support for housing at the Hudson Street water tunnel site during their March meeting. The proposed development would feature affordable housing units, as well as a youth indoor recreation center—both of which are essential to the community.

Originally, as part of the negotiations, the water tunnel site was slated to become a neighborhood park once work on the water tunnel site was completed (except for the southern part of the lot which is needed for access to the tunnel below).

The heavy hitters on the board have been pushing to build on this spot and there is a rush to get housing as soon as possible. But why sacrifice open space while city regulations are being changed to enable conversions to residential? If the water tunnel site is developed, the land will be gone for generations, if not forever. And we’ll have given away the last possibility to increase parkland in our park-starved neighborhood.
Ideally, every school should have a garden. Children benefit by putting their hands in the earth, planting seeds and helping them grow, but most downtown children are denied time in natural areas because it doesn’t exist here.

No barefooted, tree climbing, frog holding, mud pie baking, cloud 
spotting, puddle stomping, bird calling, wild foraging, moon gazing, firefly chasing, fort building, creek following, rock hunting moment with Mother Nature is ever wasted. —Nicolette Sowder

Have you ever looked at something in nature so stunning that time seems to stop and in that space you feel a calmness? One chilly fall evening, while sitting with my dogs in the park by the JJ Walker field, the tall trees began to drop their leaves. The reflection of the park lights on the sliver shaped leaves flashed against the dark sky as they fluttered down. There was a grace to it.

We must teach our children to smell the earth, to taste the rain, to touch the wind, to see things grow, to hear the sunrise and nightfall, to care. 
—John Cleal

With the constant building of new residences in our neighborhood, why isn’t there enough affordable housing already? Must affordable housing be built on parkland that has been given to the community? Both the Elizabeth Garden and the water tunnel sight were promised to us as our parks. They are both the last open spaces left in their areas suitable for more parks and you want us to give them up?

The building proposed for the water tunnel site will need to be large and will change the character of the area. It will create more concrete canyons, closing JJ Walker in, and, as a member of the Land Use Committee correctly stated, parts of JJ Walker will often be cast in shadow.

Recognizing nature relatedness as a basic psychological need should be of interest to policy makers and practitioners in a variety of professions. —Children & Nature Network

“Within the same block as the water tunnel site, is the office building on Varick Street, between Houston and Clarkson Streets. With a conversion, this building could be used for affordable or senior housing and a beautiful new rec center with no sacrifice of open space. (The city already owns the rest of that block.) Varick Street is lined with large industrial buildings that would be perfect for these uses.”

Proven benefits of nature-based learning include improved academic performance, cognitive functioning, psychological well-being, and social interactions.
—Children & Nature Network

Elected officials and advisory committees, please take advantage of Mayor Adams’ and Gov Hochul’s work to enable conversions so that we can have more indoor and outdoor recreational space and natural areas, as well as senior and affordable housing. We and our children, as well as future generations, need more park with open natural areas to de-stress, recharge and enjoy.

Lynn Pacifico is a fourth generation Villager who loves dogs, nature and New York City.