Rebuttal to Gothamist Recent Article on Sara Roosevelt Park and  5th Pct Mtg TONIGHT

There will be a 5th Pct police meeting TONIGHTTHURSDAY November 30, 2023 at 62 Mott Street 7:00PM.

Rebuttal to Gothamist Recent Article on Sara Roosevelt Park Our Manhattan park


Our Park

I want to thank the reporter from WNYC for the time she took to walk and talk to me as the current President of the Sara Roosevelt Park Community Coalition (SaraRPCC)1). We understand that reporters have editors who bear a large responsibility for any article.

The reporter’s interest was genuine, and she was open about being a friend of the leader of a group that arrived a few years ago. She gave one of their members, a landlord here, the ‘voice’ throughout the article. The local landlord’s relationship to his tenants is not known to us, but it might matter. There are other potential issues with the newly re-elected Council Member.

Despite the title, I was the only “local resident” quoted.

In my role, I take issue with what was emphasized, who was platformed with their perspective on the park, and the lack of outreach to the people who could have given the article greater depth, history, and information on the park.


I offered:

the Council Member Marte – who is part of the PlayFair Coalition (as are we) that is fighting for Park funding. Chris grew up here, his family still lives and works here, and he has always been engaged in the issues of this park.

I offered Jamil Phillips – a Park Manager who goes above and beyond his job description with little staff to juggle.

I offered NY4Parks’ Adam Ganser a PlayFair Coalition leader who strategizes for Parks funding.

I offered City Relief workers who are close to many of the homeless here.

I offered our VP who lives in the section being addressed.

I offered the CB3 District Manager.


No one was contacted as far as we know.


Importantly, we don’t agree with an article that focuses blame on an underfunded and hardworking Parks Department. A perspective we don’t share. Parks is our long-time partner, along with many partners, who have been working to improve this park, which is in a challenging Environmental Justice Zone (and an area who some feel has been a ‘sacrifice zone’ for generations).

The pitting of people against each other is a large part of what we’ve stood against since our beginnings in the late 70’s – as long as we’ve been here. It doesn’t mean we always agree – it does mean we come to the table, learn why we hold our positions, work out what we can and continue with our common efforts.

Our park cannot afford to be used for political theater nor for clicks.

I have put this long ‘article’ by category: Safety, Parks Department Infrastructure, Park Maintenance and Upkeep and Safety, Litter, Parks Engagement with Community on Redesign, Our Sara Roosevelt Park Community Coalition View on Our Park, Policing, Quibbles, Take Action, Footnotes.




Why was a 15-year-old from Guatemala sleeping in this park and why was he here alone – which should perhaps have been the major point in any recent article on this park.


Violence and murder grabs media attention for a few minutes and then victims are forgotten or used as “talking points” for people with agendas. With no real lasting movement to change what is generating the slaughters. I personally held the head of a dying teenager who was stabbed in 2014. It was heartbreaking, infuriating, and senseless.


We created a ribbon memorial in the South Delancey area and a Homeless memorial on the North Delancey on behalf of all the deaths here.


Because every death matters to us.


The murders of innocents did not raise new alarms for us. Neither did the deaths by freezing to death or COVID or being made vulnerable by sleeping on the streets (as was the killing of a beloved Uncle Kwok). Nor the senseless, slow dehumanization of anyone, nor the racism and poverty that gives tacit ‘permission’ for all of this to go on.


When we have no commitment from the city (and too many communities) to site Safe Havens run by competent providers – whose contracts are monitored – people with addictions have nowhere to go. When we have no housing for those who are on the edge of being homeless or currently homeless – we have nowhere for the homeless to go. They are left to fend for themselves – and no one gets ‘better’ who is homeless.


Ongoing safety issues should be a surprise to no one.


But to be very clear – I’m a 70-year-old woman who builds gardens in the Broome to Delancey area – as do the senior Hua Mei birders and an elder from the M’Finda Kalunga garden.  We stay aware and treat people with respect, and remind everyone else to do the same (and if needed we text the officers who we know will respond).



Parks Department Infrastructure



Our park isn’t suddenly ‘falling into disrepair’. The section focused on in the article has not had any infrastructure work done in it for many decades (except the building and public bathrooms renovation) – not for lack of effort by Parks or the neighborhood or elected reps or our Coalition. We are well aware of the needs  2.


Until the very recent funding, there was never enough money to tackle this section. Parks often has to rely on local Council Members’ (or other elected rep’s) funding to pay for infrastructure – which automatically puts poorer communities at a disadvantage with competing claims. Do you fund parks, schools, shelters or bolster local non-profits essential work?


Even funds generated by concessions inside of parks don’t go to Parks.


It is precisely the Grand to Broome to Delancey Street section that has finally been sufficiently funded due to many efforts by our four-decades-old Sara Roosevelt Park Community Coalition and led by or in partnership with residents, our NYC Council representatives, Borough Presidents, NY State and Congressional representatives, Parks Department and local Parks staff,  neighbors, small businesses, founding partners such as University Settlement and AAFE, long-time organizations like Chinatown Partnership, and many more.


We now have $15M from the Noho Soho rezoning, $10M from the mayor, and the 3.3 M from the Governor’s office. That changes everything.


We, the Sara Roosevelt Park Community Coalition” (SaraRPCC), I don’t think “the city is failing to use promised funding and resources to fix the problems”.


NYC does not have Design-Build thus it takes a long time to go from funding to design to implementation – and probably longer now with fewer Parks resources.


The BRC is getting its building in shape with new windows and doors and with extras thrown in to ensure steady heat and air conditioning as well as safety doors – thanks to our recent Manhattan Parks Commissioner Perez and staff – and it has been a long wait. Because Park projects, like most NYC projects – take a long time – we and many others support design-build, but it isn’t legal in NYC in most construction projects.


AND, the City’s Parks Department has gone out of its way to ensure that the community that lives here has had many real chances to have a say in what happens.


Park Manager Jamil Phillips continues to work hard despite having had his staff cut and more cuts likely on the way.


FY25: staff 6, 725

Pre-COVID 8,000

Parks total job losses: 1400 people.

Park Programs delayed for 1 year: Community Garden Anti-Gun Violence, Tree Risk Management, Trail Formalization, Swim Safety Expansion


Sanitation cuts will impact parks – as remaining staff will need to pick up trash that was being done by Sanitation.

Composting eliminated.


The mandate for the Parks Department workers is to care for our greenspaces and provide whatever deterrents PEP officers are able to. But given our City’s long-time, austerity budgeted, decades-old, underfunded Park systems, we are not sure how they are supposed to accomplish their work.


The Pit was marked by some for destruction – ironically – as it is the area creating the most ongoing safety here. Thankfully, Parks reassured us it is staying.



Park Maintenance and Upkeep and Safety


Our VP and other members live in this section, many commute at all hours. And yes, you have to be fully aware of your surroundings and that is true anywhere in NYC.


Commissioner Perez added bright downward facing lighting to the Broome Street building –– immediately made this section safer. More and brighter lighting is needed and has been asked for throughout the park. DOT is ultimately responsible for the lighting, and it requires coordination between the (few) park workers and DOT.


Correcting the article:  We asked Commissioner Perez to remove fencing put up during the pandemic that potentially could trap the elderly Hua Mei birders in their beloved space. After a walk-through with Council Member Marte, Parks immediately removed the fencing. His words: “if you build a cage, people will act like they’re in one”.


And yes, I do carry a shovel when I’m working in the section where dealers and sometimes irrational people are. But I’ve only had to threaten once. Most days people offer to help me and express gratitude for our work. We have many homeless people helping us in this area.



The Parks Department’s budget has been slashed once again to austerity levels – and still they try to keep up.

Parks Department’s workers sweep through this area constantly – but they can’t keep up. This park is used 24/7 and many people who come through here. And they are from all walks of life. (You can tell by the expensive brands of bottles dumped here). There are no bathrooms open despite many who sleep in this park.


We know there are persistent clean-up efforts by the Parks staff because our VP’s home overlooks this section of the park.


The Parks here no longer have a gardener due to budget cuts. We have many volunteer gardeners and organizations that have taken on sections of this park for decades – we work in coordination with Park Gardeners – but we need paid gardeners to ensure the entire park is covered and for larger projects.


Our Coalition gardeners, the Hua Mei birders, other volunteers, local non-profits, 5th Pct Youth Explorers, ROAR festival volunteers, Park workers, etc are working or have worked in these sections – every weekend and any times we can get volunteers – breaking ground and building new gardens.


We have park workers who, despite our City’s lack of commitment have gone above and beyond their job descriptions to keep this park cared for: Polonia, Demaira, Jamil, Dennard, Louis, and many many others.


The Parks Dept spokesperson was correct – needle boxes are here – provided and maintained by Housing Works – for free. Parks workers use them to place needles.


Parks Engagement with Community on Redesign


The Parks Department has gone out of its way to get us a map to distribute so that our communities could offer their own thoughts on the redesign, these are people who will LIVE with these designs. Parks attended and sent the design team to our Sara Roosevelt Community Coalition in-park effort, as well as the usual on-line effort which has meant that those who are not savvy or have internet access can also participate.


At that in-park event, ALL of our elected officials participated in person. Our Congressman was engaged in DC efforts. – but sent his rep! All knowledgeable, and all there for hours listening to residents.


This was a far far more inclusive and local effort than was done by others who have ensured their own opinions on this park are heard.


And. At the same time we held this day in the park all of our electeds came out to offer information and support on landlord displacement tactics – because whenever you have an upgraded park – what follows is the cashing in on property. We’ve already lost two, deeply Park involved women of Color owned businesses here due to rent hikes.


Thankful for the continuing efforts of Ricardo Hinkle and their design team’s Crystal Xing. 

Our Sara Roosevelt Park Community Coalition View on Our Park


This Park is still a refuge – including an area known as “The Pit” which provides the only activation of an ongoing nature in this long-neglected area. The Pit is used by locals for all kinds of activities: soccer (upgraded to assist in the loss of the East River Park redo), tennis, children’s bike riding, children’s sports, day-care center games, unicycle games at night, bike polo, Burmese Water Festival, New Museum family day, martial artists, bike helmet give-away, and pick-up games of all sorts


This Coalition is still here building gardens, working to create and support the hubs of community activity that create the possibility of lasting safety, handing out clothes, organizing ROAR festivals, offering arts programming, supporting our community police officers to keep us all accountable, insisting that no one get erased, supporting local efforts, fighting for more community centers, handing out food, free health care, offering friendship, comfort, and cups of coffee, a chance to help out, providing whatever we can from non-existent or impossibly stretched budgets or small grants from Citizens for NYC. Four decades worth.


Bob Humber is an 87-year-old volunteer here handing out clothes/food/friendship almost daily. He’s an institution and safe haven here. I’m a 70-year-old woman, I help build gardens in the Broome to Delancey area – as do the seniors of the Hua Mei birders along with some of the M’Finda Kalunga gardeners. As do the Youth Explorers of the 5th Precinct as have the Tenement Museum staffers. City Relief provides resources. Volunteers. We do that in concert with our local Parks Manager Jamil Phillips, storehouse manager Denard Harris, and Ralph Musilino and all our park workers. We stay.


We have been very aware of the ‘conditions in the park – for decades – our Coalition fought back in the late 70’s and 80’s when austerity budgets had slashed park funding (as is happening now) – this section of the park never fully recovered – despite everyone’s efforts.


The Parks Broome Street building was rebuilt and houses new bathrooms and communications. We think it should share the large space with an organization/small business to run a food kiosk out in Broome Street area with seating that can be stored in that building. Revitalizing this section – after the renovation or before. We know the only way things get safe is to have a police presence (beat cops) for enough time to allow the larger community to come back in numbers. Proven time and again by experience and many studies. Including our long experience here. We will engage, as always, with Parks on these and other ideas.


Our coalition will continue to coordinate with Jamil and Parks.


This is the world of doing the work to get help for a public park that is not surrounded by wealthy people in these times of a Hunger Games of needs. Welcome to the effort. It will require boots on the ground. This neighborhood did this in the late 70’s to 80’s and we are well aware that we will need to do it again. With all our partners.




It appears to many of us that the recent abandonment of “community policing” has not been successful. We miss the officers who knew everyone and constantly checked in and walked or drove the park. We appreciate efforts made to ensure the safety of everyone.




Correction: The Lion’s Gate only demarcates the entryway and the field at Grand Street. The area in need of major infrastructure runs from Grand, then Broome then to South Delancey.



Take Action


Anyone who wants to see action can offer to volunteer with us but – we BUILD gardens which means you make a concerted and ongoing effort to maintain a garden in the park. Because gardens take a long time to create and are a commitment to maintain. More so now with Parks workforce decimated.

Sign on to the “PlayFair for Parks” efforts to commit to supporting Parks Department and their staff. Enable workers to build a future in this city agency.

Thanks. Now back to work.


K Webster,

K Webster
Sara Roosevelt Park Community Coalition

Twitter @SaraRPCC




1)    We no longer use the “D” in our name. This is distinct from a new group which was highlighted in this article – calling themselves the “Sara D Roosevelt Alliance”. We have no funding for the niceties of our work thus, so our cards are old).


2)    In specific It needs ADA accessible entryways and ADA accessible pathways. Water sources at both ends and middle. Brighter, downward facing lighting. Fencing fixed for perimeter and the Hua Mei bird plot, removal of broken brick walls, sharing of space in the only Parkhouse in this section, fix drainage in “The Pit” area, etc.



all photos here by K Webster – the faces of those living in the park will not be shown.

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