Bridge ‘Park’ to run through River Cafe

Brooklyn Bridge Park's still-to-be-built segment would be linked to existing greenspace north of the Brooklyn Bridge by taking some of the land at the River Cafe (at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge tower above).
The Brooklyn Paper
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The lovely grounds of the enchanted River Café will be ripped apart to create a pathway linking disparate ends of the Brooklyn Bridge Park development, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

The restaurant has a romantic perch and breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline, but it actually sits on city-owned land at the end of Old Fulton Street — an area that planners hope to incorporate into the project.

As a result, the River Cafe would lose some area from its landscaped lawns and parking lot to the controversial open space and condo project, which stretches along the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO waterfront.

The path that would be cut through the River Cafe would provide a link between existing state- and city-owned portions of the park along the waterfront between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges and the proposed segment from Old Fulton Street to Atlantic Avenue.

River Cafe owner Michael “Buzzy” O’Keeffe hinted that his restaurant was in danger this winter, when he sent out a rambling missive to restaurant regulars and the media that alluded to a crisis over his site.

“The River Café’s park is without question one of the prettiest little parks in the city, and we keep working to make it better,” O’Keeffe wrote. “Now, some think they have a better idea.”

The letter mentioned Brooklyn Bridge Park, but did not directly refer to any plan to damage or shrink the River Cafe’s grounds.

“There are great risks when imposing any new park design over an area that is already a proven success since every new design (including The Brooklyn Bridge Park) is subject to its own ‘limited probability of success,” he wrote in the letter’s kicker.

Final designs for the pathway have not been settled yet, but O’Keeffe’s is increasingly confident that the damage won’t be as extensive as he originally feared, he told The Brooklyn Paper last week.

“When you’re dealing with municipalities, sometimes they’re unreasonab­le,” he said. “I wasn’t sure we were going to work it out.”

For now, O’Keeffe said he believes it will work out — and officials from the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation agreed.

“For more than 30 years, the restaurant has lured both visitors and New Yorkers to Brooklyn’s waterfront. That’s why we are working with the River Café to ensure that they are a part of Brooklyn Bridge Park and a destination favorite for years to come,” said Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation.

The agency did not make a rendering available to The Brooklyn Paper.

O’Keeffe does not own the land under his landmark restaurant. Since 1977, when the café opened, he’s had a long-term lease with city, which has been extended and now runs until 2025. He pays $1,667 rent per month — roughly equal to 10 people ordering the $125 six-course tasting menu and a bottle of a 2001 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion.

He’s also responsible for maintaining 600 feet of public waterfront from the dock where his Ice Cream Factory venture stands to a point under the Brooklyn Bridge.

In other developments, The Brooklyn Paper has learned that a portion of Water Street, which intersects Old Fulton Street in front of the River Café, will be narrowed to create the link between the park’s northern and southern ends, too.

Passive recreation areas at Pier 1, just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, and Pier 6, near the foot of Atlantic Avenue, are scheduled to open later this year.

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Reader Feedback

Anon from DUMBO says:
Let's see...Regina Myer was fetted and honored at a River Cafe event hosted by the Conservancy when she was hired as President of BBP DC. Then she "works with" Buzzy contract asking for no more money, extending his sweetheart deal to 2025. And the money he pays is less than most people pay for a 5th floor walk up in rental apartment in any of the surrounding neighborhoods. Meanwhile Tavern on the Green pays Central Park 3% of its gross revenues or about $1.3 million each year to be inside their park. Buzzy pays $20 thousand per year. Doesn't anyone smell a rat fink in Myer and this whole "park" project?

And by the by, where is Squadron's plan for no more housing? Has the River Cafe taken him out for his lunch yet?
May 4, 2009, 5:57 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
The Mets and the Yankees got the same deal as Buzzy. It really starting to smell all over NYC lucky we've got Mayor Mke to clean this dump up.
May 4, 2009, 10:47 pm
Sue from Boerum Hill says:
Very true...Mayor Mike to the rescue. Perhaps he wants control of Brooklyn Bridge Park so he can have special seating at the River Cafe (gratis for food, too) and maybe get a great deal for his kids in the park condos? The Heights swells will welcome that coup! All the reason for everyone else to be against it. And, yes, what ever happened to the Park PIRC plan? When will the other elected offiials jump on board? Where are the city council candidates on this, too? Calling Mr. Squadron...
May 6, 2009, 4:17 pm
Mara from Williamsburg says:
It reflects badly on Buzzy that he is running to the Brooklyn Paper to complain about the possibility of his expensive and exclusive (not to mention "enchanted" as the ever-objective Mike McGlaughlin describes it) restaraunt having to yield some of its landscape to a public park. I can't see how this indicates a cozy relationship with Myer, however (as suggested in Anon's comment above). If anything, it sounds like he isn't getting what he wants.
May 7, 2009, 12:37 pm
Joan from Fulton Ferry Landing says:
Buzzy O'Keeffe and the River Cafe should be lauded and not maligned. Along with Olga Bloom and the incomparable Bargemusic she created, Mr. O'Keeffe started something that made this little part of the world more wonderful and has attracted people from all over the world to share in its unique qualities. As part of the River Cafe, Mr. O'Keeffe has maintained a beautiful public garden. Unlike other developers in the area (one of whom "discovered" the area when he came to dine at the River Cafe in the 70s), he has not gone overboard, has not sought more, more, more. Rather, he has maintained his jewel's elegant simplicity (and, as noted in the article, maintained a substantial part of the public waterfront) and has been a true asset to the community. For this he deserves to be acknowledged and thanked and not vilified.
May 23, 2009, 7:22 pm
chris from Bedstuy says:
Yay! Get rid of that ugly parking lot on our beautiful waterfront!
Sept. 16, 2009, 2:58 pm

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