A perfect new east side park Op-Ed

| 18 Jan 2016 | 05:59

The MTA-owned lot on the southeast corner of 63rd street and Second Avenue is the ideal location for a new park. The lot will be used as a staging are for the East Side Access project until at least 2021 but our elected officials and the MTA need to start the process of creating new park on this site.

The East Side and Second Avenue in particular have endured an enormous amount of construction over the past 10 years. A new park will help absorb the impact of increased density and make our neighborhood a more pleasant, beautiful place to live.

A 2013 report commissioned by Council Member Dan Garodnick and then-Council Member Jessica Lappin found that the East Side is severely deprived of open space. In the area spanning the east side from 14th street to 96th street, there is less than one-quarter of an acre of open space for each 1,000 residents—well below the 1.5 acres recommended by the group New Yorkers for Parks. More than half of the residents of the East Side have to walk more than five minutes to reach a public city park. All New Yorkers deserve safe, accessible open space.

East Side Access is a multi-billion dollar mega project that will bring LIRR commuters to a new terminal underneath Grand Central. While this project will be an enormous improvement for regional transportation in general and Long Island commuters in particular, the East Side IRT will become even more crowded as a result.

There is already a precedent for creating new open space out of the East Side Access project. In September 2014 the MTA opened the “50th Street Commons”, a vest-pocket park on 50th street between Park and Madison avenues. The lovely little park is a serene gathering place in the midst of midtown’s hustle and bustle, designed according to William Whyte’s classic prescription for small urban spaces.

A noise-dampening waterfall would create an oasis from the honking and congestion around the Queensboro bridge. Seating and open space would create a place for seniors and families to gather. Trees and greenery would reduce the already abysmal air quality in the neighborhood.

At a recent Community Board 8 meeting the city Department of Transportation announced its plans to reconstruct Second Avenue as a safer, greener corridor for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. This plan is commendable, but more needs to be done. A new park on Second Avenue would help soothe the continuing pain from a decade of construction.

On October 12, the Daily News reported that MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast told his staff to listen to ideas from the public instead of dismissing them out of hand. A good place to start would 63rd and Second Avenue, the perfect location for the East Side’s next park.

Devin Gould is a Public Member of Manhattan Community Board 8’s Transportation Committee.