Brooklyn Bridge Park is an 85-acre (34 ha) park on the Brooklyn side of the East River in New York City. Designed by landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the park is located on a 1.3-mile (2.1 km) plot of land from Atlantic Avenue in the south, under the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and past the Brooklyn Bridge, to Jay Street north of the Manhattan Bridge. From north to south, the park includes the preexisting Empire–Fulton Ferry and Main Street Parks; the historic Fulton Ferry Landing; and Piers 1–6, which contain various playgrounds and residential developments. The park also includes Empire Stores and the Tobacco Warehouse, two 19th-century structures, and is a part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a series of parks and bike paths around Brooklyn.

The park's first portion, Pier 1, opened in 2010. The land for the park was formerly an industrial stretch of waterfront owned by the Port Authority of New York ...Read more

Brooklyn Bridge Park is an 85-acre (34 ha) park on the Brooklyn side of the East River in New York City. Designed by landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the park is located on a 1.3-mile (2.1 km) plot of land from Atlantic Avenue in the south, under the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and past the Brooklyn Bridge, to Jay Street north of the Manhattan Bridge. From north to south, the park includes the preexisting Empire–Fulton Ferry and Main Street Parks; the historic Fulton Ferry Landing; and Piers 1–6, which contain various playgrounds and residential developments. The park also includes Empire Stores and the Tobacco Warehouse, two 19th-century structures, and is a part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a series of parks and bike paths around Brooklyn.

The park's first portion, Pier 1, opened in 2010. The land for the park was formerly an industrial stretch of waterfront owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. After the city and state signed a joint agreement in 2002, site planning and project funding proceeded. The first work, undertaken in 2007, involved the demolition of a warehouse under the Brooklyn Bridge. Since the opening of Pier 1, several other portions of the park have been completed. The park was finished in December 2021. There have been disputes and lawsuits over several aspects of Brooklyn Bridge Park, including the construction of residential developments to help pay for the project.

Brooklyn Bridge Park is overseen by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, a not-for-profit organization that operates and maintains the park, as well as oversees its construction. The park is served by several bus, subway, and ferry routes.

As a port Pier 1 park with an expanse of lawn with trees and high rise buildings in the background Pier 1

In 1642, the first ferry landing opened on the land that is now Brooklyn Bridge Park's Empire Fulton Ferry section. Soon after, a thriving trading economy developed into a small town called "het Veer", meaning "the Ferry".[1][2] As het Veer grew throughout the 17th century, it became known as the "Road to the Ferry".[3]: 3  On August 29, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, het Veer served as a crucial strategic location for George Washington and the Continental Army in the Battle of Long Island. In the middle of the night, Washington's troops evaded the quickly advancing British Army by escaping across the East River to Manhattan.[4]

As the 18th century came to a close, additional ferry services were added to this waterfront community, including docking points for the "Catherine Street Ferry" and the first steamboat ferry landing that was created by Robert Fulton, which eventually became known as the Fulton Ferry Landing. The community continued to grow into the 19th century as Brooklyn Heights developed into a residential neighborhood,[3]: 4  eventually becoming one of America's first suburbs, as ramps and bridges to the waterfront were built.[5] By the 1850s, Brooklyn City Railroad rail lines were installed at the Fulton Ferry Landing. During this boom period, brick warehouse development proliferated along the waterfront, and the area soon became known as "the walled city".[3]: 4  In addition to the warehouses, the Empire Stores were constructed between 1870 and 1885.[6][7]

In 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was opened.[8] While the Brooklyn Bridge formed a needed link between Manhattan and Brooklyn, it also disrupted ferry traffic, which reported sharp drops in patronage.[9] In addition, the bridge bypassed the waterfront, spurring more inland development and neglecting the waterfront.[3]: 4  The Manhattan Bridge, which opened in 1909,[10] further disrupted trade to this section of the East River. The addition of these two crucial bridges resulted in the demise of this waterfront and the closing of the Fulton Ferry Landing in 1924.[3]: 5  The construction of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade in 1950,[11] and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) underneath it in 1954,[12] posed another barrier to accessing the waterfront from Brooklyn Heights.[3]: 5 

Throughout the 1950s, over 130 warehouses and 25 smaller "finger piers" were demolished along Brooklyn's waterfront. To accommodate larger ships and cargo, the New York Dock Company built 13 new piers between 1956 and 1964, comprising what is now Piers 1–3 and 5–6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.[3]: 5  However, as trade technology advanced, so did trade routes. By the 1970s, much of the Brooklyn waterfront developments were largely barren and decrepit, causing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to end cargo ship operations in 1983.[1] Many of these warehouses were demolished or abandoned by the end of the 20th century.[3]: 5  One of the last tenants, the New York State Labor Department, continued to occupy a warehouse until 1996.[13] The warehouses on the piers comprising Brooklyn Bridge Park were not demolished until construction began on the park in 2008.[3]: 5 

Planning
 
Under construction (September 2014)
 
Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park (January 2010)

In 1984, shortly after closing cargo ship operations on this stretch of waterfront, the Port Authority decided to sell the vacant piers for commercial development. In response to these plans, the not-for-profit organization Friends of Fulton Ferry Landing was established in 1985, conceiving the idea of Brooklyn Bridge Park.[14]

At the time of the piers' sale, it was estimated that the 87 acres (35 ha) of docklands between Piers 1 and 6 were worth several billion dollars.[15] As early as 1981, developer David Walentas had proposed redeveloping the warehouses as part of a commercial development, but his plans were complicated by a political dispute, and then the stock market crash of 1987.[13] This gave rise to a protracted dispute over a 55-acre (22 ha) parcel of land at the site. The Port Authority wanted to create a riverside residential development with between 2,200 and 8,800 housing units, surrounded by a 20-acre (8.1 ha) park. The Brooklyn Heights Association wanted the park to occupy the majority of the land, 43 acres (17 ha), with hotels and restaurants spread across the length of the park.[16]

As the Friends of Fulton Ferry Landing grew, its name was changed in 1989 to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Coalition, an organization dedicated to advocating for the park's creation, which is now known as the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy.[17][18]: 228  That year, the coalition petitioned Mayor-elect David Dinkins and Governor Mario Cuomo to prevent the Port Authority from immediately selling the site to developers Larry Silverstein and Arthur G. Cohen, who were in talks with the Port Authority to purchase 73.5 acres (29.7 ha) of land for the riverside development. Rather, the coalition wanted Dinkins and Cuomo to allow an alternative plan to be developed.[19] The coalition called for the creation of a special authority, similar to the Battery Park City Authority, to take control of the site.[20]

By 1996, the Port Authority was planning to sell or lease Piers 1 through 5, which were losing money year over year.[21] With planning for the waterfront commencing, Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden established the Brooklyn Waterfront Local Development Corporation (LDC) in 1998 to complete a year-long planning process for Brooklyn Bridge Park.[22] New York State Senator Martin Connor and Assemblywoman Joan Millman secured $1 million in funding, and the LDC began an intense public outreach process.[23][22][24] However this was complicated by various disagreements among members of the LDC, as well as a dispute over why the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy was not part of the LDC.[22] Furthermore, Walentas had announced a new development plan for the area, which would not interfere with the proposed park.[25] Due to strong community opposition, his plan was rejected by the city in December 1999.[26] By February 2000, the Port Authority had agreed to let the piers be developed as a park, rather than for residential or commercial use.[27] Simultaneously, park planners proposed restoring a cove at the site of Walentas's now-canceled development, expanding the Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park by 2.3 acres (0.93 ha).[28]

Various disputes emerged during the planning process. The most serious disagreement concerned one key aspect of the project: the inclusion of luxury housing units.[29][30][31] While supporters stated that the housing would help fund the park, opponents argued that it was a "Faustian bargain" that would set a precedent for privately owned public parks,[29][30][32] and that the inclusion of housing would no longer make the Brooklyn Bridge Park a true park.[33] There were also disputes over whether to place Jane's Carousel within the park; Walentas and his wife Jane had purchased the carousel, built in 1922, at auction at Idora Park, Youngstown and had wanted to include it in their now-canceled development.[34] While the Walentases now wanted to include the carousel within the park, many residents preferred the park remain a quiet open space.[35] Ultimately, the carousel was included in the park plans, and it opened in 2011.[36]

Design

The park development efforts culminated in the Brooklyn Bridge Park Illustrative Master Plan, published in September 2000.[23][30] Subsequently, in January 2001, New York governor George Pataki announced that the state would contribute $87 million of the then-projected construction cost of $150 million. This coincided with the acquisition of the final 1.16-acre (0.47 ha) plot of land that was needed for the park.[37]

On May 2, 2002, Pataki and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) wherein New York State and the City of New York agreed to create, develop, and operate Brooklyn Bridge Park on 85 acres (34 ha) of the East River waterfront, stretching from Atlantic Avenue to Jay Street.[38] The MOU also formed the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (BBPDC) to develop the park, following the guidelines as established by the Illustrative Master Plan.[38][30] To begin the first phase of construction, New York State, New York City, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey contributed a portion of the $360 million of capital funding for a complete park build out. To ensure the park would be fiscally sustainable throughout the years, the MOU mandated that all park maintenance and operations are required to be economically self-sufficient, financed through revenues from commercial and residential development within the site.[38]

The entirety of the first two phases of the park, including the Main Street dog run, both beach portions and adjacent playgrounds were designed in house by NYC Parks landscape architects.[39][40][41] In 2004, BBPDC hired Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., a landscape architecture firm, to plan, design, and prepare a master plan for the full development of Brooklyn Bridge Park.[42] The park's master plan, unveiled that December, included landscape features such as hills, open plazas, canals, and marshes, as well as recreation features like sports fields, kayaking areas, a waterfront promenade, and playgrounds. The plan also included a hotel, restaurants, stores, and residential projects at the Dumbo and Atlantic Avenue ends of the park.[43][42] A model of the proposed park was released the following year,[29] and by 2006, the Port Authority had transferred ownership of its piers to BBPDC.[44] The new plans were opposed by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund and the Sierra Club, which objected to the inclusion of housing within the park and filed a lawsuit in 2006 to stop the plans.[45]: 162 [46] A state judge dismissed the lawsuit ruling that the Defense Fund's claim that the proposed housing violated the state's "public trust" doctrine had no merit since these sites had never been intended to become parkland.[47][48][49] On the other end of the spectrum, urban planner Fred Kent lamented the park plans as a missed opportunity for development on the waterfront.[50]

The General Project Plan, approved in 2006, was modified in 2010.[42] In 2011, a new MOU was signed, granting further funding for parkland construction and outlining the requirements for commercial and residential development.[51]

Construction View of the construction site at night Night view, during construction

The first work on the Brooklyn Bridge Park was the demolition in 2007 of the Purchase Building, a warehouse beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. It was to be demolished to make way for an expanded vista at the park.[45]: 162 [52][53] Construction of the park itself began on January 28, 2008,[54] using reclaimed soil from the new World Trade Center's construction.[38][54] Excavations for the first part of the park, Pier 1, revealed artifacts from the Jewell Milling Company, a business that occupied the site in the 19th century.[5][55] The project used soil and excess materials from other construction projects around the city, such as the rebuilding of the Willis Avenue Bridge and Roosevelt Island Bridge, as well as East Side Access. The park was described as the "most important public space" to be built in Brooklyn in over a century, akin to Central Park in the late 19th century.[56]

Empire–Fulton Ferry State Park was closed in early 2010 for renovations,[57] and was devolved to Brooklyn Bridge Park's control.[58][6] The first 6 acres (2.4 ha) of park opened in March 2010 at Pier 1 and contained waterfront walkways, a playground, lookout, and lawn.[59][60] Later that summer nearly 12 acres (4.9 ha) of parkland opened on Pier 6 and the Pier 2 uplands, bringing playgrounds, sand volleyball courts, concessionaires, and natural habitats to the park.[61]

After Piers 1 and 6 were opened to the public, a nonprofit corporation sharing a name with the park was established to continue parkland construction and to plan for park maintenance and operation.[62] The Empire–Fulton Ferry section, including Jane's Carousel, reopened in September 2011.[63] The same year, Brooklyn Bridge Park won the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence silver medal.[64] Pier 5 subsequently opened in December 2012,[65] followed by the Pier 3 terrace in November 2013[66] and Piers 2 and 4 in May 2014.[67] The Main Street Park was renovated and expanded in August 2015,[68][69] and the Pier 6 landscape opened in late 2015.[70][71] The Tobacco Warehouse was also converted to a performance space in 2015,[72] and Empire Stores opened the following year.[73][74] By the time Pier 3 opened in July 2018, the park was 90% complete. At that point, only three sections remained to be opened: the Pier 2 uplands; a permanent swimming pool at Squibb Park; and the area under the Brooklyn Bridge, between the Empire–Fulton Ferry section and the rest of the park.[75] The final section of the park, Emily Warren Roebling Plaza, was approved in May 2020[76] and opened in December 2021.[77][78]

Operation and effects

Work on a new entrance pavilion at Pier 1 commenced in July 2023.[79] Glide, a pop-up skating rink, opened at the park in December 2023.[80]

Since opening, the park has led to the construction of residential developments with some of the most expensive housing units in Brooklyn.[81] This included a $19.2 million penthouse, which became the most expensive home in Brooklyn when it was put up for sale in 2017.[82][83] However, during the development of Brooklyn Bridge Park, groups filed several lawsuits to stop the construction of various developments in the park. A 2014 lawsuit, alleging that a hotel at Pier 1 was too tall, was dismissed in June 2015.[84] Two other suits to halt the construction of an adjacent condominium complex were dismissed in September 2015[85] and in June 2016.[86] A fourth lawsuit concerning two residential buildings at Pier 6 resulted in a settlement in May 2015 where the heights of these buildings were reduced.[87]

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