Brooklyn Bridge Park: The new Central Park?
Credits: Roberts, Matthew,,freelance
Set to open in early-January, the first installment of Brooklyn Bridge Park ends 10 years of design, politics, construction and public participation. Opening in the dead of winter, Section 1A under the Brooklyn Bridge at Old Fulton St., marks the first phases of the most important public space to open up in the borough of Brooklyn in 120 years.
When fully completed, the $350 million, 85-acre, 1.3-mile park will extend the neighborhoods of Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, and Cobble Hill, giving outdoor space to Brooklynites begging for more playgrounds.
There are hundreds of wooden pylons left from 150 years of maritime industrial history. These wooden pylons pay homage to the chronology of the site and preserving the current eco-system (fish and marine life) that have lived around those pylons for more than a century.
Boulders, called rip rap, have been placed in front of those pylons around a “Salt-water Marsh” and “Tidal Pool” (in section 1B set to open within a year) that will allow local students and visitors to observe mollusks and clams that will ultimately claim the area as their new home.
There is a man-made hill that rises more than 30 feet into the air separating two large lawns, one facing the Brooklyn Bridge and one facing the 900 acres of borrowed landscape in the New York Harbor. There is a small “vale” or valley that descends towards the water encircled by two small mounds that create a warm pocket against the northwest winter winds coming off the harbor.
When walking or sitting in this park, you’ll be constantly touching New York City history. Granite boulders used from the destruction of the Willis Avenue Bridge, the Roosevelt Island Bridge, and the East Side Access Project (tunnel’s being built for the Long Island Rail Road), have all been incorporated into the design. “Not only is the right sustainable move,” says Van Valkenburgh, “but it significantly reduces cost. Park building is as much about design as it is maintenance and renewal.”
“This park is possibly the most important public space in the last century anywhere in the country,” says NYC parks commissioner Adrien Benepe. “It fills a huge void for downtown Brooklyn and almost five local neighborhoods. Sitting on the New York harbor looking right at the lower Manhattan skyline, there might not be a more spectacular place for a new park in the world.”
"Landscape architecture should make places more powerful,” Matthew Urbanski, a principal at Van Valkenburgh’s firm, says. “We hope people rethink how to use public spaces after using this park."
For the past 10 years since the city and state began working with the public to turn the former Port Authority-owned industrial site under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the site has remained behind a chain-linked fence. During that time period, Brooklyn-based landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) has been busy transforming the former parking lots, warehouses, and waterfront piers to green space.
Merging land with water, the Brooklyn Bridge Park design pushes people to the waterfront, allowing visitors to touch the water or launch kayaks in four separate places. Creating hills, lawns, and curving pathways that elevate and descend like a game of Shoots and Ladders, MVVA uses every step up or down to enhance the skyline and 900 acres of harbor views. As an individual’s perspective shifts, the view of the city changes with it.
Make no mistake that this is a tough site. It gets very cold on the water in the winter. The site is thin. It was flat. The Brooklyn Queens Expressway rises 40 feet above creating noise and smog. “Sure, you could not make a better theatrical backdrop to this landscape,” says Urbanski. “That said, transforming a former freight terminal into a park meant it had to be violently changed without being totally destroyed first, which would have been way too expensive. It was very important for us to do something authentically Brooklyn here.”
Using six piers each about the size of Bryant Park to incorporate playing fields, tidal pools, water recapturing systems, and picnic areas, the park reuses sustainable materials such as wood, metals, and stone from the park site, the Willis Avenue Bridge, the Roosevelt Island Bridge, and the East Side Access project.
Adrian Benepe, NYC Parks Commissioner; Peter Davidson, Executive Director of Empire State Development and Regina Meyer, President of Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation stand on the hill in the nearly completed section of the new park.
For now, the park is a work in progress. Early visitors can watch construction of a new landmass that will be used for centuries to come. With much of the ideas for park design coming form community meetings, the park is for New Yorkers by New Yorkers. Even as the state and city raise funds to complete the project by 2013, the park could go down in history as the finest new urban space of the 21st Century.
Pictured above is a scale model of the park. "Landscape architecture should make places more powerful,” Matt Urbanski, a partner at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) says. “We hope people rethink how to use public spaces after this park.”
I have no idea what one does after a project of this scale,” A. Paul Seck, who managed the park project for Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) says. “I just want to watch people’s faces as they walk the first hill and the city rises with them.”
Landscape architect Dorothy Tang makes small adjustments to a model of the planned Brooklyn Bridge Park, created by Michael Valkenburgh Associates. The model is approximatley 14 feet long.