The $10 Million Question

What would you do with $10 million?

Would you build three, 25-foot-tall, egg-shaped structures that filter out pollutants from the local creek? Would you take out the front of an old factory and turn it into a boat dock with a sexy esplanade? Would you fill a couple of suitcases up with cash and head to Vegas?

This is what Greenpointers had to ponder Tuesday night, as the City Parks Foundation presented a list of 45 plans detailing what, exactly, to do with a $10 million check the city paid in a settlement last year. After failing to meet a deadline for state standards at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, the city allocated mitigation funds for a community environmental benefit project. It is the largest such grant in state history, the Department of Environmental Conservation said.

The meeting was held at the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant Visitors Center in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and attended by nearly 60 residents and plan supporters. The 45 plans, presented by David Rivel, the Executive Director of the City Parks Foundation, were submitted by a variety engineers, environmental enthusiasts, and residents. Rivel, who has been working with a team of specialists to investigate each proposal, explained the “A, B, and C” grading system used to evaluate plans. The system graded on a rubric based on feasibility, considering factors such as cost, possible completion date and similarity to previous projects already undertaken.

“We’ve been working very hard to review these projects,” said Rivel, “and the people involved have a variety of talents.” The City Parks Foundation is a privately funded non-profit organization working in over 750 parks across the city to sponsor free arts, sports, and education programs. It was chosen last year to administer the mitigation funds, along with The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority as well as the Hudson River Foundation.

Among the 45 ideas were an underground filtration tunnel for Newtown Creek, a playground and a velodrome.

The project with the most visible—and audible—support at the meeting was the playground, otherwise known as the “Dutch Kills Basin Acquisition.” Fifteen students from the International High School, part of LaGuardia community college, cheered with banners and cameras as the project’s name was announced. The students were accompanied by one of their teachers, Ruth Chasek, who explained the 500 children at the school were not the only teenagers in the area in need of an outdoor space.

“It’s very grey – only buildings – there’s no nice, public place for teenagers to play,” said Jimmy Chang, one student. “It would be fun to have a place to hang out with friends, instead of always being on Facebook all the time. And we have to fight childhood obesity.”

Another project that got a lot of attention, though for different reasons, was the underground filtration tunnel.

“This is one of my personal favorites,” chuckled Rivel. The plan, not given a grade because it was deemed “not feasible,” proposed to dig a nearly 4-mile long, $5 billion filtration tunnel to Bowery Bay, flushing out Newtown Creek.

“You’ve got to admire this project, though” he added.

The City Parks Foundation plans to send an email next week including another evaluation explaining whether the remaining 26 proposals with either “A” or “B” grades also accomplish five different qualifications: if the idea is supported by the community, if it has public and waterfront access, if it physically improves the community, if it can leverage additional funds, and what the geographic proximity is to the Newtown Creek Watershed Treatment Plant.

The email will also include the opportunity for recipient to list their top five preferences. The foundation also plans to release voting sites throughout Brooklyn and Queens where residents and business owners not on the email list can submit preferences.

To be included in the email list, contact David Rivel at The City Parks Foundation. (212) 360-1399.

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