MARINE PARK — At least $12 million in State Senate funding for Brooklyn parks, announced just days before the 2018 general election, seems to be missing.
Shortly before he was voted out of office in a tight reelection race, longtime State Sen. Marty Golden announced a pair of grants for parks on each end of his district. Now, with renovations on at least one of them months past their estimated spring start time, Golden’s former constituents are wondering when their parks will get their due.
“[Marine Park] is in such disrepair, I won’t go,” local resident Jenny Major told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Especially the playground. There’s a little clubhouse that’s an accident waiting to happen. There’s glass, there’s bottles all over — it’s just a safety hazard.”
Major, whose children are 4 and 6, said she lives just blocks away from the park, but refuses to take her kids because of its condition. Last fall, she was excited to hear that the park would be getting a grant. Now, Major wants to know why work hasn’t been done.
On Oct. 29, 2018, Golden — a Republican who, before being narrowly defeated by current State Sen. Andrew Gounardes about a week later, hadn’t lost an election in more than two decades — held back-to-back press conferences. At each, he said he’d be allocating State Senate grant money to parks in his district.
A $4 million grant would go towards rehabilitating the P.S. 278 playground in Marine Park, he said, and another $8 million would go toward creating unencumbered views and a brand new playing field at Shore Road Park.
Almost one year later, Parks Department officials say they haven’t received either allocation.
The city’s Department of Education — which, Brooklyn Paper reported, would be pitching in on design and build given the Marine Park playground’s proximity to I.S. 278 — also did not have any information on the $4 million grant.
A Parks Department spokesperson said that funding for Shore Road may have gone through the Shore Road Parks Conservancy, but the volunteer group told the Eagle that the conservancy never received any of that money, and that the funds had probably ended up with the Parks Department.
A State Senate spokesperson who spoke on condition of anonymity
told the Eagle Friday that an investigation by the senate’s Finance Department found no record of either allocation ever existing.
Golden, however, maintains that the two grants were indeed issued, which he claims “Parks knows full well.”
“They were the ones that gave us the numbers that were available, and we made sure those funds were going to go to Marine Park and Shore Road Park,” the former state senator told the Eagle. “If that money’s not there, that money must have been appropriated and reassigned by the Senate Democrats.”
The State Senate spokesperson said that redistribution of allocated funds is neither possible nor legal. Typically, the spokesperson said, allocations are not announced by elected officials until after they’ve been finalized.
Golden — who is reportedly considering a run for his old seat — said it’s a shame that the funds are even in question. “That money should be there — and if it’s not, that’s a shame that our community would lose that type of money because it is desperately needed for those two parks,” he said.
Golden’s successor agreed — about the need for funding, at least.
“We’ve spent the last eight and a half months working with the Parks Department and the Senate Finance staff and the Dormitory Authority and there seems to be no record of this funding anywhere. It’s just nonexistent — at least in any official capacity,” Gounardes told the Eagle. “And my office has gotten nothing [from the former state senator] — the only thing we got in the transition was a box of old pictures.”
“As far as we’re concerned, there’s no further ability for us to track this [funding] down, which is unfortunate because obviously it’s a big investment to make in the parks,” he said, adding that, in the meantime, he’s been working with the Parks Department to try and find some “feasible” projects at both parks for which he can secure immediate funding, starting with the persisting problems at Marine Park.
“Some of the playgrounds [in Marine Park] are really run down,” he said. “I’m working with the Marine Park Civic Association and the Marine Park Alliance to come up with a fundraising strategy for the park. We want to put them on the path to become a conservancy, to maintain park operations and really to better the park for everyone. Right now, people are really concerned about the condition of the park and it’s at the top of the radar for us.”
According to the Parks Department, Marine Park — the largest park in Brooklyn — consists of 530 acres of grassland and salt marsh, protected as a Forever Wild preserve. Among its amenities, the green space is home to the Salt Marsh Nature Center and the Gerritsen Creek Nature Trail. Recreationally, the park offers a golf course, bocce courts, cricket fields and baseball diamonds. The park also contains multiple playgrounds, bicycle greenways and a launch site for canoes and kayaks.
Moving forward, Gounardes said, he’d love to see the playgrounds completely replaced. “The track is also in very rough shape, the oval needs to be completely redone and we have to start dealing with the ponding and flooding,” he said. “We know this stuff isn’t going to happen overnight but that’s my longterm goal.”
When asked what she’d like to see as a neighborhood resident, Jenny Major addressed the funding first. “For starters, I’m curious about this $4 million. I’d like to know where it is,” she said. In terms of work, she just wants to see Marine Park get what it deserves.
“I go around to other parks,” she said, commending the work done on Gerritsen Beach Park after Superstorm Sandy, and the recent revamp of a playground near P.S. 277. “They have more activities and better structures. I don’t see why the biggest park in Brooklyn — the one that the neighborhood is named after — can’t have the same amenities.”
The Parks Department recently redid Marine Park’s bocce courts and Carmine Carro Community Center. While the City Council funded the courts’ reconstruction, Golden contributed $1.1 million toward the community center’s $16.3 million price tag.
Golden served the 22nd State Senate District for more than two decades. The area — which spans a swath of southern Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach — is now represented by Gounardes, who defeated Golden in 2018 by just over 1,100 votes.