Brooklyn’s Calvert Vaux Park is in need of major restoration, according to two local lawmakers who are working together to try to get $80 million put into the city budget to turn the massive Gravesend recreational space into a showcase to display its natural beauty and historic significance.
Councilmembers Justin Brannan and Mark Treyger are advocating on behalf of the park as budget negotiations between the City Council and the de Blasio administration get under way.
The city’s new fiscal year begins on July 1.
The park is technically located within Brannan’s Council district, but Treyger said many of his constituents from Gravesend and Coney Island use the recreational area.
“Calvert Vaux is a major priority,” Treyger told this newspaper. “It is one of the largest parks that have not been fully re-done.”
Named for Calvert Vaux (1824-1895), an English architect who worked with Frederick Law Olmsted on the design of Central Park and other public spaces, Calvert Vaux Park is located on Shore Parkway, stretching from Bay 44th Street to Bay 49th Street.
Its 85.5 acres are filled with lush meadows, children’s playgrounds, baseball and soccer fields, basketball, bocce and handball courts, and footpaths.
“There is truly no other park like it – acres upon acres of untouched meadows and marshlands with some of the most exotic wildlife in Brooklyn,” Brannan told this newspaper, listing pheasants, plovers, songbirds, turtles, frogs, snakes, raccoons, rabbits, possums, muskrats and bats among the examples of wildlife making the park their home.
Seals have been known to sunbathe on top of an old shipwreck in nearby Gravesend Bay, according to Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parks of Bensonhurst and Gravesend.
Both Brannan and Treyger said that some of the money they are trying to secure is funding that the city already owes.
Back in 2009, when the Bloomberg administration made plans to rezone Coney Island, a $40 million renovation of Calvert Vaux Park was included in the agreement, Treyger said.
But a decade later, only about half of the $40 million has been used, according to Treyger. “The city has paid only half its debt,” he said.
Brannan, who called the park “a diamond in the rough,” said the 2009 renovation plan was ambitious.
“The plan included six soccer fields, three baseball fields, a central lawn, an amphitheater, kayak launches, picnic areas, a bicycle path, nature trails, a playground, a recreation center, a pavilion, you name it. But when all was said and done, we ended up with just two soccer fields and a parking lot with most of the funds disappearing into some bureaucratic abyss never to be seen again,” Brannan told this newspaper.
Complicating matters is the fact that since the original 2009 agreement, the estimated cost of re-doing the park has gone up, according to Treyger, who said that is why he and Brannan are looking for $80 million.
In the meantime, Brannan has secured $6 million to construct a new restroom and a storage space for local sports leagues that use the park. “But there is so much more that needs to be done,” he said.
For Brannan, it’s also a matter of fairness and equity in city funding. “When it comes to our parks, southern Brooklyn has been ignored for far too long and we are tired of it. It’s time that we get our fair share,” he said.