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BY SAM SPOKONY | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JAN. 30, 2014 | Capping years of community effort — and perhaps coming full circle in his own life — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has helped secure $2.5 million in funding to revitalize the Lower East Side park where he once shot hoops as a kid.
Luther Gulick Park, just south of Delancey St. between Columbia St. and Bialystoker Place, received the money as part of a larger grant distributed by the state’s Department of Transportation to support similar enhancement projects throughout the state. As he has previously in other situations, Silver had heartily advocated for the park to be one of the 63 statewide sites chosen for the new funding.
Planned improvements to Gulick Park — which have been conceived by local residents in association with the city’s Parks Department — include the construction of new sidewalks, lighting, bicycle parking, greenery and landscaping.
D.O.T.’s $67 million funding push was announced by Governor Cuomo on Jan. 15, and Silver put out his own statement the next day.
“I am thrilled that we are able to make these vital improvements to Gulick Park, a treasured part of our Lower East Side community,” Silver said in a statement. “In a neighborhood that has long suffered from a lack of open space, Gulick Park serves an enormous need for our children and all of our residents on both sides of Delancey St…. I remember playing basketball there as a boy, back when it was called Sheriff St. Park.”
In addition to the overall dearth of parkland on the L.E.S., many residents have been particularly fervent in their efforts to get new funding for Gulick Park because it has been largely neglected for many years.
The Friends of Gulick Park, a community-based group, has advocated for the space on behalf of residents for the past four years, and was the local organization that actually filed the application for the new $2.5 million, alongside the Parks Department.
In addition to the other enhancements, the Friends also hope to revitalize the park with new and improved play and picnic areas. According to the organization, the new state funding nearly doubles the total cash available for the work, and only around $500,000 now needs to be raised in order to fully fund all of the planned construction.
“On behalf of the Friends of Gulick Park and our Lower East Side community, I want to thank Speaker Silver for his important leadership and perseverance in obtaining funding for the restoration of this park,” said David Bolotsky, a Friends member, as part of Silver’s Jan. 16 announcement. “Located in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge, Gulick Park provides an oasis and gathering place for neighbors on both sides of the bridge and from all walks of life.”