Katherine Conkling Thompson
By day I design footwear in Midtown’s garment district, but after hours I love being involved with local issues, working with neighbors on shared interests and goals to improve the quality of life for all. I moved to Greenpoint in 1996 with 2 small children and 3rd on the way. Back then there was no local family soccer program in our neighborhood parks so in 1999 I helped found the AYSO Greenpoint/Williamsburg Youth Soccer League and was the Assistant Commissioner for 12 years. This lead to my involvement with public parks advocacy as there were no safe soccer fields for kids to play on. In 2014 I became the co-leader of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. I see myself as task-master-in-chief as we strategize how to get Bushwick Inlet Park built out and activated.
Right now, in my current passage, I am a granny-nanny for my first grandbaby. We moved to Greenpoint in 1980. My heart has always been fighting for Greenpoint. My voice has always been telling its story. My Polish grandmother was born on Dupont Street and worked for a time at the Domino Sugar Factory. But I am a girl from Connecticut who moved to NYC with big city dreams in her head. I chose to stay and raise my family in Greenpoint. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the place and I would say that continues to this day. We started our community activism by fighting the old dioxin-belching incinerator. We fought for the upgrade of the largest sewage treatment plant in the world! We fought the transfer stations that lined all of Kent Avenue. We fought for a waterfront that would have continuous green space from Newtown Creek to the Williamsburg Bridge. We wanted more than a boardwalk. Now, I am fighting for the completion of Bushwick Inlet Park. I hope we will have a beautiful green space before my grandbaby goes to college! I hope I will be able to catch a breeze in the completed, world class, Bushwick Inlet Park.
When I moved to Greenpoint in 2001, I immediately noticed posters mobilizing against a power plant proposed by a developer on the East River waterfront bordering Williamsburg and Greenpoint. From that point on I was enlisted to push back on this threat and resist the infamous 2005 rezoning of our neighborhood with focus on the same waterfront. Both endeavors where charged with the aim of preserving the fabric of our neighborhood and access to the waterfront for the people. Saving Bushwick Inlet Park has been a just continuation of this effort. In parallel I work as a web designer with my loyal companion and Jack Russell Terrier, Ben Kenobi. I also serve on Brooklyn Community Board #1 and as chair of Friends of WNYC Transmitter Park.
I’m a documentary filmmaker and proud to have profiled environmental groups active in Greenpoint-Williamsburg in the early 90’s in Earthkeeping: A Call to Action, a WGBH documentary inspired by the first global Environmental Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. I helped found Greenpoint Against Smell and Pollution in the 80’s, and worked with Concerned Citizens of Greenpoint, El Puente and Hasidic activists in Williamsburg to help defend our neighborhood against toxic waste, transfer stations, oil spills and air pollution. I have a particular interest in indigenous peoples and the Keshaechqueren tribe, who were the first to enjoy Bushwick Inlet Park’s environmental wonders.
I moved to Oak Street in 1989 where I raised three sons playing in the McCarren Park dust bowl, tripping on cracked asphalt in American Playground and running bases in the street, the East River shoreline a block away, completely inaccessible. Around 2005, I joined the board of GWAPP (Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning) where the Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park was hatched, a Friends Group for a park that at the time was merely a promise, “Where’s My Park?”, the all too apt rally cry. In addition to FBIP, I now serve on Community Board 1, the chairperson for the Landmarks and the co-chair of the Parks committee. By day, I manage the studio of sculptor Richard Serra and at night, I dream of world class art in our world class Bushwick Inlet Park.
I am a longtime resident of Greenpoint and, for almost as long, actively involved in civic organizations and community advocacy. My wife, Katherine, and I were among a group of local parents who founded the Greenpoint Williamsburg Youth Soccer League in 1999. Searching for suitable playing fields made us realize how underserved the community was/is in terms of open space and parks. I was a member of Community Board #1 for five years, serving on the Parks Committee and was a co-chair of the Greenpoint Williamsburg Association for Parks & Planning. Currently, I am a board member of the Open Space Alliance and the North Brooklyn Newtown Creek Alliance. In 2010, I founded the North Brooklyn Boat Club and serve as its President. Professionally, I am a filmmaker, running Pickerel Pie, a creative production company.