Anyone who strolls along Greenpoint's desolate West Street—just one tantalizing block from the East River—is familiar with the frustration of finding many streets leading to the water gated off. It's not as if there's some waterside idyll waiting on the other end of the block, but there's still something refreshing about being able to stand by the river and watch the sunset or fish (shudder).
Some assumed that these blocks have been gated off because they're part of private property, but it turns out companies illegally privatized the streets during the 1970s and ’80s to deter trespassers. Now the Open Space Alliance has joined Councilman David Yassky to get these riverfront access points open again. In a letter to Robert Lieber, the city’s Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Yassky wrote:
No one at present appears willing to actually remove the fences for fear of incurring potential liabilities. I insist … that the removal of these street-end fences and gates be addressed immediately. Greenpoint continues to have virtually no access to its waterfront and the promised parks are still years away from completion. These street ends, once fully open, accessible, and clean, will provide the community with three desperately needed waterfront havens.
Brooklyn Paper reports that two weeks ago, city workers tore down a chain-link fence that had long closed the riverside foot of Kent Street, but other blocks remain gated, including Java Street, which has become popular with transients in recent months. Huron Street has been open for some time now, and though it's a trash-strewn dead end, it's still something of an urban oasis. Now there's talk of adding benches and other amenities, but let's hope not—the streets would probably get closed again for years while the city "worked" on them!