Don’t park your lot here: Locals rally against Rutgers Slip playground demolition for luxury towers’ parking lot  

Lower Manhattanites are fuming over the potential loss of their neighborhood park.

Local residents and parents gathered at Rutgers Slip Park in joint outrage on Monday, one day before construction was scheduled to turn the playground and basketball court into a parking lot.

Organized by CAAAV, the protest saw residents ranging from children to the elderly gather between South Street and Cherry Street, where they denounced developer Joe Chetrit for attempting to transform the children’s play space into a patch of barren concrete. Joining the rally were members of Tenants United Fighting for the Lower East Side (TUFF-LES), Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), and TakeRoot Justice as well as representatives for Council Member Christopher Marte and Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou.

Parents say their children will loose the space designed for them. Photo by Dean Moses

“After years of promises that this space would remain an open space, they’re saying oh you know what? We just realized we got to put the cars somewhere,” Paula Segal said, an attorney for CAAAV. “I’m still hopeful that we can have a better outcome that we can have, for this space, at least what was promised–a space that will serve the residents of Lands End II until the new buildings are built and then the space will be transformed into one that will serve them plus the new residents. Never a parking lot.”

Paula Segal. Photo by Dean Moses

Chetrit Group, the developers constructing two mega towers at 265 South Street are building an underground garage at the site; however, until the job is completed Rutgers Slip Park may be bulldozed over to create a temporary parking lot. Community residents have long been in an uproar about the 64 and 70-story towers, stating that it will displace residents and cause health hazards for those residing in the Two Bridges area.  

In April, members of CAAAV and other groups of concerned residents called upon the Department of Buildings to revoke the site’s work permits. However, DOB has approved all permits including a plan for a temporary parking lot that would last about four years.

Photo by Dean Moses

Residents say this plan was never mentioned, and instead the scope of the project was presented to the City Planning Commission in 2018 along with the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as simply an open space for the public, stating: “The existing private Rutgers Slip Open Space would be enlarged and reconstructed and dedicated as publicly accessible open space.”

The tenants won a small victory thanks to Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, who represents the Lower East Side, Chinatown, South Street Seaport area, Financial District and Battery Park City. According to a member of her office, locals have been granted a temporary halt, preventing the construction from beginning on May 24. However, this is doing little to tamper the boiling ire. Rumblings amidst the group feel that work could now begin as soon as Friday, May 27.

“[This plan] was never examined as to how this would directly impact the residents and this community. These callous developers keep undermining and taking advantage of our underserved/underrepresented, low-income, hard-working class families in this community” Grace Mak said, Rutgers Slip resident and member of TUFF-LES in a press release, “[If] the developers think they can just tear down/destroy huge sections of our neighborhood without a fight from the Two Bridges community; then they don’t know much about the people who live in this community.”

amNewYork Metro reached out to Chetrit Group for comment and is awaiting a response.

Photo by Dean Moses