Game of Greed

Stealing From Our Community

By Lynn Pacifico

THE AUTHOR’S GRANDSON ROMAN in deep concentration, fascinated with the earth.
Photo by B. Greco.

As was illustrated in the May CB2 Parks committee meeting, our area has the least amount of trees and tree canopy in NYC. Our district also has the least amount of parkland. Years ago we were excited to learn that 388 Hudson St. would be transformed into a neighborhood park upon the water tunnel’s completion.

Between then and now, politics happened and and our new promised park will be sacrificed for affordable housing. It will take eight years to complete the legal process for the water tunnel site before construction can begin. Providing needed affordable housing could be accomplished by taking advantage of the conversions new possibilities which also might be faster.

Until recently, almost all West Village residential buildings were conversions. With decades of constant conversions and building new residences, why isn’t there enough affordable housing already?

Below are the known ploys our community has suffered at the hands of our officials.

  1. Both the Elizabeth St. Garden and the water tunnel site were promised to us for parks.
  2. Officials pitted one neighborhood against the other saying that only one area could be saved—either Elizabeth St. Garden or 388 Hudson. (Can affordable housing only be built on land that has been promised for parkland?)
  3. While pretending that we could at least have one of our promised parks, secret deals were made for developing both spots. Both were taken from our communities and given to developers.
  4. Currently officials are pitting neighbor against neighbor, saying that we will have affordable housing at the expense of parkland, that we cannot have both. Untrue.
  5. Officials think that if the plastic grass or the asphalt is green or there are a couple of bushes, they can pass space off as a park. The southern portion of the water tunnel site is slated to be a seating area. However, tall buildings to the east, west and south of the site and a new building on the lot’s northern half will complete a cavern around the seating area. This area will get too little light for any real nature but it will be called “green space” none-the-less. A dark corner, covered in plastic, is not a healthy complement for the human spirit and the community loses again.
  6. They are selling the last of our village. (Just look down Greenwich St.) The new building will block the sky and cast Hudson St. and parts of J.J. Walker into shadow.

The West Village, a real estate goldmine for the last few decades, has no living parkland except for a narrow strip of Hudson River Park lawn alongside a heavily used six lane highway, where the traffic and its noise never stop. This stretch of the HRP lawn is used as a bathroom in the evening when the park restrooms are closed. Babies and toddlers use this same lawn as this is the only grass lawn we can legally use. (Field turf is worse as it is filthy and its plastic outgases chemicals and increases heat. Nature at least cleanses and renews itself.)

Nature speaks to us through the trees, rain, wind and our own vitality. Her alkalizing negative ions calm emotions, sooth pain and inflammation, strengthen the immune system and ease illnesses, including autoimmune and Attention Deficit disorders. In today’s wired fast-paced world we have forgotten how to listen to the “mother wisdom” of nature and so we weaken ourselves and our kids are deprived of this wellness hack. Children should breathe air that is fresh and clean from sunlight, real grass and trees.

Before the J.J. Walker ball field was turfed, it was people from the neighborhood who used the field. Even though only a small fraction of people play league sports, now all three of our fields are turfed, which locks out nature’s vital life force and the neighboring community, as the fields are exclusively for league sports. This leaves not only our neighborhood children without natural areas in which to run, play and imagine, but deprives all of us a necessary component for vital health. The people who gather at J.J. Walker in the morning indicate a need for an organic neighborhood field. We also need pickleball courts and a dog park.
The amount of people in the neighborhood has grown dramatically and this will continue with the new affordable housing. We have had to add a new school and none of the three schools close to this site have a yard. Physical activity outdoors is even more important now that schools no longer have gym class, but most downtown children are denied time in natural areas because it doesn’t exist here.

When I was young the only time we stayed indoors was when it was raining too hard but today’s children live on their devices indoors, divorced from the natural world. They only develop two senses – vision and hearing. Each is on a device even in the company of friends. Limited to sitting, the development of other senses and muscles is inhibited. Our children do not develop kinesthetic talent, strength or grace. Their bodies are not conditioned to last through the decades ahead of them. We need a children’s planting garden and an enclosed children’s nature play area to help rectify this.

We need real living breathing nature and the water tunnel site is the only option for this. It is a no-brainer. The office-to-residential conversions for affordable housing make it foolish to build on our last open space—space that was already given to us for parkland. Or will greed and politics as usual continue?

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