NYC Parks Erases Promised Bronx Park Land From Website as City Prepares to Take It Away From The Public

Parks sign outside the extension site which the city now wants to develop up to 920,000 square feet development with as many as two towers, one 40 stories and another 26 stories in height.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio prides himself on being a mayor for all boroughs and ran a campaign on the disparities of a “Tale of Two Cities” yet four years later since his campaigning began, we are no better in many aspects than under the previous Bloomberg administration.

The city thought they could quietly take away a promised plot of land for the expansion of Mill Pond Park along the Harlem River north of 149th Street but thanks to Welcome2TheBronx who first broke the story last year, we were able to put them on notice that we are watching.

Last year, the New York City Economic Development Corporation announced issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the vacant 4.7 acre plot of land that was promised and destined to be part of the people’s waterfront park.

After we pointed out that this was indeed dedicated parkland, NYC Parks quietly attempted to remove traces of the promises by removing the 4.7 acres from Mill Pond Park’s webpage on their site—but not before we were able to take screenshots.

NYC Parks includes the extension’s 4.7 acres in the total 15 acres of the park. As it stands, only 11.3 acres have been improved as park land. This was taken last year
As you can see, NYC Parks has removed the land from the map and the acreage.

Last week Bronx residents and activists met with staff from NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who’s district covers the park, to ask her to put a stop to this land grab.

Let’s face it: If this were in Manhattan, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion because the people would not let it happen but because it’s The Bronx, we’re still living in a tale of two cities where the city does whatever it pleases.

Mill Pond Park map at the park itself shows the southern parcel as part of future expansion of Mill Pond Park.

The only reason the city wants the land is to develop “affordable” housing which shows just how desperate de Blasio is to show he’s actually doing something with the affordability crisis we’re facing—but he’s not.

But there may be a saving grace.

Paula Z. Segal, an attorney who has dedicated herself to the preservation and creation of open, green spaces, commented on the legality of what is going on here:

“In order to convey parkland to a nonpublic entity, or to use parkland for another purpose, a municipality must receive prior authorization from the State in the form of legislation enacted by the New York State Legislature and approved by the Governor. “Once land has been dedicated to use as a park, it cannot be diverted for uses other than recreation, in whole or in part, temporarily or permanently, even for another public purpose, without legislative approval.” United States v. City of New York, 96 F.Supp.2d 195, 202 (E.D.N.Y. 2000). This clear law has been applied consistently since 1871.

The question is: what is parkland?

The term “dedicated” is often used in referring to municipal parkland subject to State alienation requirements. Common phrases include “lands dedicated for park purposes” and “dedicated parklands.” The dedication of parkland may be formal through an official act by the governing body of the municipality.

Dedication can also be implied. This may occur through actions which demonstrate that the government considers the land to be parkland or the public used it as a park. Examples include: a municipality publicly announcing its intention to purchase the lands specifically for use as a park, “master planning” for recreational purposes, budgeting for park purposes, or “mapping” lands as parkland. Kenny v. Board of Trustees of Village of Garden City, 735 N.Y.S.2d 606, 607 (App. Div. 2nd 2001)(property acquired for recreational purposes and used for recreation was instilled with public trust even though never officially dedicated).

Here is the State’s handbook on alienation:

Although it would seem that the law is indeed on our side, NYCEDC insists that what they are doing is completely legal.

We are asking NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to save our public land. By allowing the EDC to go forward with this, it would set a dangerous precedent for other parkland throughout the city.

Maybe Public Advocate Letitia James can step in and help our community as well? Either way, we can’t and must not let this happen.

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.