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Update: City to Unlock Columbia Waterfront Park Pending Discussion

Vacant for more than 35 years, a lot at Woodhull and Columbia streets was lovingly turned into a park by Brooklyn neighbors. HPD's reaction? "Get out."

Update, 1:20 p.m.: The Housing Preservation & Development Department did lock the gates at 12:25 p.m. Thursday—but those gates will be not be staying shut for long. Dr. Mick Maurer sent an email to Patch stating he had been contacted by Sen. Squadron just minutes after the gate was closed and said the lock would be removed while discussions with his office and HPD were conducted.

"NYC HBP came and locked the gate at 12:25pm.  Senator Squadron called me at 12:40pm to say the locks will be removed and we will have use while we go in to discussions with his office and HPD.  We will have an answer by the end of the summer if not sooner." — Dr. Mick Maurer

Assemblywoman Millman also confirmed via text the flip-flop decision to keep the park opened for the time being.

Is it true "no good deed goes unpunished"?

After watching a city-owned lot at the corner of Woodhull and Columbia streets remain vacant for more than 35 years, overrun with wildlife, vermin and drug paraphernalia, neighbor Lou Formisano decided to take matters into his own hands.

Using money set aside to repair his garage, Formisano cleaned out the lot, installed 4,000 square feet of sod, set up patio furniture and a sprinkler, then invited block residents to come by and enjoy the new green space. 

But after just two weeks the city has shut him down.

"They said, 'we’re not going to build but you can’t be here,'" Formisano told Patch, recalling his exchange with the Housing Preservation & Development Department. "They’re going to change the locks and told me get my patio furniture out."

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Formisano, who planted trees along the street 20 years ago and who recently installed flags at every neighboring home for his own altruistic reasons, said he offered to lease the lot from the city month to month and purchase insurance. Still, they declined.

"I got rid of six feet of garbage, rodents and rats. We made the block beautiful just to make things nice for the people that live here," he said. "I don’t see why they want us out. I'm hoping we can get something resolved."

While the Columbia Waterfront District has recently seen and owners, the neighborhood still lacks many amenities such as groceries and parks. 

"This allowed local children an enclosed open space to run free in," said neighbor Dr. Mick Maurer. "Neighborhood gardens like the have plants which prevent play. You have to go down into Red Hook or up to Columbia and Atlantic for play areas."

Furthermore, in its previous state the lot attracted drug use.

"They came once a year to clean it before," added Maurer. "The weeds were there since late summer 2011." Formisano said he has collected and held onto all of the drug packets he found in the lot before and during its cleanup.

But following an interview with WNBC4 on Wednesday night and after appealing to local officials such as and , neighbors are holding out hope that they can get the city to change its mind.

"I'm working with residents and HPD to find a solution that allows this otherwise unused, and much-needed, open space in our neighborhood to benefit the community," Senator Squadron told Patch. 

Louise July 14, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Passed by Louie's park around 4:00 this afternoon and all the patio furniture is out and not a soul was in the park...I thought they were taking the locks off the gate...what happened?
Louise July 14, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Just heard Louie put everything back in the park..Good for Louie....hope it is there for many years...
Jenny July 14, 2012 at 09:41 PM
i think the community reaction to this has been great. i hope Louie is aware of it.
Robin July 15, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Louise, I drove by Saturday afternoon and everything was out. There's now a large slide for the kids along with the tables, chairs, etc.
Louise July 15, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Leave it to Louie..2 years ago he had a block party on his block..unbelievable. He had water slides..pools.. jumping big rubber thingies. He is one heck of a man!!!! This is what he enjoys doing and he WILL do it for the kids..I know Aiva had a ball that day...Good for Louie...

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