East River State Park: Soft Opening or Happy Mistake?
From a distance Saturday, it appeared the big moment had finally happened: a small group of people strolling along the East River shoreline between North 7th and North 9th Streets, signaling the long-awaited grand opening of East River State Park. Imnotsayin saddled up the camera and went to document the momentous occasion.
Mysteriously, both the Kent Avenue park gates were still padlocked. On further investigation, the crowd had trickled in through a small gate at the very foot of North 7th Street, near our favorite MTA Fan Plant. Inside the park, a pair of fashion models vogued for a photographer, leading us to believe it was the photo shoot that had bought their way into the long-padlocked park, and that passersby, noticing the open gate, had helped themselves to the opportunity. No one we spoke to knew what to make of it - but after more than a year of waiting, no one was complaining either.
Hours later, dozens of locals witnessed their first breathtaking sunset from the new park. A pair of Precinct 94 officers sat in their cruiser on the North 7th dead end, watching folks come and go from the park - but for the first time in memory neither chasing them away nor ticketing them for trespass.
We asked if the park was officially open, and their response was an unceremonious, sympathetic shrug. "We have no idea. But the gate's open, so why should we stop them?"
Now that the illicit riverfront access at North 5th to North 7th is effectively gone (crawl through the fence now and The Edge's security guard will chase you away), the neighborhood needs East River State Park more than ever. And as the only giveback to the community to come out of the 2005 upzoning - riverfront parkland for the neighborhood - ERSP is long overdue.
Whether the gate was left open accidentally or intentionally, the neighborhood had a wonderful taste of things to come Saturday. We hope NY State Parks sees fit to throw open the gates once and for all.
Sunday Evening Update: Despite the optomistic pronouncement of a pair of senior Polish men "It will open when they get here...around one or two o'clock" and a couple of leggy brunettes, sprawled in beach chairs at the foot of North 7th, waiting patiently, the park didn't open on Sunday. A new chain and padlock secured the entrance, and tonight's patrolmen had no information: the official line from the sandwich-wielding officer parked in the cul-e-sac was "we have no idea".
Update Updated: We stand corrected...our sandwich-wielding source gave us bad info. According to readers (and corroborated by new park signage), ERSP was open on Sunday, from some time after 11 am until around 5 pm - for Earth Day, naturally.