Volume 20, Number 44 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | MARCH 14 - 20, 2008

The new DeLury Square Park, above, will have a winding path and a waterfall. Below, the parcel of land Southbridge Towers residents voted to sell to the city to create the park.

Southbridge votes to take the park and the money

By Julie Shapiro

It isn’t often that the government pays residents for the opportunity to build a park, but at Southbridge Towers, residents find themselves in just that position.

Southbridge residents voted overwhelmingly this week to sell a parcel of land to the city, in return for which they will receive both a new DeLury Square park and $5.57 million.

The city decided to take the curved intersection of Fulton and Gold Sts. and transform it into a traditional intersection, creating space for a 10,000-square-foot park. But first, the city needed a piece of Southbridge Towers land, and the recent vote paves the way for this sale.

“We’re all very delighted,” said Wally Dimson, president of the Southbridge Towers board. “It’s an opportunity to have a beautiful park.”

Dimson cited the results — 534 in favor and 89 opposed — as evidence of the widespread support for the sale. The money will go into the Southbridge Towers budget, Dimson said, and part of it will be used to improve the complex’s security system.

The city hopes to start construction this fall and open the park in fall 2009.

In selling the land, Southbridge is also getting rid of a sinkhole that would have to be filled, at the cost of at least $2 million, said Paul Hovitz, a resident and Community Board 1 member. That brings the value of the sale up to $7.5 million, he said.

Southbridge will also get a tree-shaded square, which residents and the Parks Department have described as an oasis of shrubbery and lawns, complete with a small stream and a waterfall.

The corner of Fulton and Gold Sts. is currently the epicenter of a construction war zone, with machinery belowground and plywood barriers above, and trucks struggling to navigate in between. But once the replacement of a 150-year-old water main is complete, the city plans to square off the corner of Fulton and Gold Sts., making the intersection safer to cross and also opening up space for the park.

The only concern Hovitz and other residents have raised about the park is that it could become a camping ground for homeless people or a hangout for teenagers. Several recent fights on Fulton St. have highlighted the problems with local high school students, which First Precinct police officers say will get worse as the weather gets warmer.

“I don’t think you deny an amenity because of a need for enforcement,” Hovitz said. “All in all, I think it’s good thing for Southbridge and the [whole] community.”

Ann DeFalco, co-chairperson of the Southbridge Parent and Youth Association, agreed with Hovitz.

“I don’t have a fear of it being a problem with students,” she said. “I think this is an opportunity for the Parks Department and the city to be involved in what’s going on in the neighborhood, and supply the security and beautiful grounds that go with it.”

The park will require its own maintenance and security, which the city will provide, so that means that “more people will be paying attention,” said DeFalco, who is also co-chair of Community Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee.

She thinks the park’s location — near shops, restaurants and residential complexes — will attract a mixture of people, especially the stroller-pushing crowd that has grown recently in the Seaport.

Even Joe Morrone, the leading critic of Southbridge selling the land, did not sound too displeased by the defeat. His biggest concerns now are that the Southbridge board uses the money to upgrade the complex and that the city’s construction of the park isn’t too disruptive.

“I was adamantly against it, but in retrospect it’s not such a bad thing,” Morrone said. “Any infusion into the treasury is good.”


Julie@DowntownExpress.com



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