Proposed Subway ‘Ventilation Plant’ Could Demolish Section of M’Finda Kalunga Garden

Posted on: October 17th, 2016 at 9:23 am by
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It was revealed last week that the MTA is in the early stages of planning a new subway ventilation plant that would take a bite out of M’Finda Kalunga Garden, an historic African American burial ground. Originally germinated as rumor, the now-confirmed plans were a complete surprise to the Sara D. Roosevelt Park community, which was not informed in advance.

(The land served as the City’s second African American burial ground between 1794 and 1853 when the remains were disinterred.)

The drama bubbled to the surface last week at the monthly Parks subcommittee meeting of Community Board 3. Area advocates were extremely worried that the MTA would decimate the garden’s popular turtle pond and hen coop (i.e. dig a huge hole) in order to build the M line’s updated fan system. An MTA spokesperson only revealed the plans in response to community prodding. The proposal calls this new fan plant “a critical life safety project” since the operating M line equipment was built in 1962 and is “too small and one-directional to be useful anymore.” According to the plan:

[The vent is] proposed to be located entirely under the bed of Forsyth Street between Delancey & Rivington Streets, adjacent to the Sara Roosevelt Park…

The project design will have the least possible impact on the Sara Roosevelt Park and its ecology in view of its historic importance to the City and to the Public. The design of the fan plant will be finalized in consultation with the Parks Department and their comments will be solicited at all stages of the project implementation. It is to be stated clearly that based on the latest design, there will be absolutely minimal or virtually no impact on: the area presently occupied and used by the Park, the existing Park fencing along the Forsyth Street, the existing Pond located within the Park that has fish and turtles, the entrance to the Park including public access, the Ecology and the Environment.

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At this point, the MTA has not provided a timetable for construction or completion.

“For us, the issue was (and may still be) a lack of consultation with the people most impacted: the gardeners, the senior center and the CSA that distributes on the patio,” Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition president Kathleen Webster tells us. “Even if the city has to move forward with needed work that would impact the garden they should simply tell people that work is being considered and propose a time to listen to what that would mean to the garden.”

And while some might chalk this up to hyperbole, Webster quipped that “keeping things hidden” all but guarantees overreaction. Hell, just look at Rivington House just across the street!

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