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Group Renews Push to Transform Empty Chelsea Lot into Park

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TWC News: Group Renews Push to Transform Empty Chelsea Lot into Park
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There's a tug of war going on over a very valuable piece of land in Chelsea and after years of one idea having the upper hand things appear to be changing. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

A lot on 20th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue is one of the rarest things you'll find in Chelsea - city-owned empty space. The site was formerly used by the Department of Sanitation but since 2011 it's been empty. A community group collected more than 4,000 signatures and is pushing to make this the only park in central Chelsea.

"While this lot may seem small in size at just a quarter of an acre, the impact of a green pocket park on 20th Street would be huge. It would benefit thousands of residents young and old, from all walks of life for years to come," said said Matt Weiss of Friends of 20th Street Park.

It's not that simple though. The land is controlled by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and earmarked for dozens of affordable housing units. Back in 2011, then Council member Christine Quinn and the Community Board 4 chair dismissed the idea for a park. But things appear to be changing with a new chair and Council member in place.

"The community has very strongly expressed that they want a park there and we also want affordable housing. So what we're looking is a win-win," said Community Board 4 Chair Christine Berthet.

To that end, the park advocates say they've identified multiple alternate sites for housing, like boarded up city owned buildings on 22nd Street. Quinn's successor, City Councilman Corey Johnson is helping to work toward a compromise.

"My goal is to achieve even more units of affordable housing, if possible, in the neighborhood. And hopefully build a new park on 20th Street," Johnson said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has made both more affordable housing and community self determination major points of emphasis. The community advocates are hoping City Hall is listening to them.

"This is the last remaining piece of open space in all of Chelsea. If a park doesn't go here, it won't go anywhere," said Sally Greenspan of Friends of 20th Street Park.

The community board has not formally endorsed the park plan. In a statement, a spokesman for Housing Preservation and Development reaffirmed the importance of more affordable housing in this area but says they are talking with the councilman about alternate sites for that housing.

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