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Big ‘signs’ of improvement - Brooklyn Paper

Big ‘signs’ of improvement

… and funky lighting that makes it impossible to miss the once-hidden footpath entrance.
The Brooklyn Paper / Celia Weintrob

Tourists will no longer be scratching their heads searching for the long-hidden Brooklyn Bridge footpath, thanks to a new map, directional signs, travel guides and stunning lighting on our side of the storied span.

The new signage — dubbed “This Way” by its designers — will be officially unveiled on Wednesday afternoon.

But tourists — long stymied by the dark underpass where the unmarked stairway to the bridge’s walkway begins — and DUMBO residents, who are often called upon to re-direct the out-of-towners, are already buzzing about the project.

“They look good and they’re eye-catching,” said Chris Yovanovich, who was in from Columbus, Ohio, for the day with her husband and daughter. “I like the pictures and the history attached to the pictures.”

But such talk is a far cry from just days ago, when tourists could not find their way through the confusing area underneath the dark Brooklyn–Queens Expressway overpass on Washington Street.

“We came over just to walk back over the bridge and we couldn’t find the sign [back],” Dutch tourist Dini Moorlander said earlier after she was unable to master the area.

Few tourists ever were. The other day found Barry Freeney, a tourist from English-speaking Northern Ireland, frustrated and unable to find his way around the area.

“Back home, we have special signs for tourists,” he said.

But the problem was not just a lack of signs, but the condition of the one that did exist. The standing maps provided by a local business group has for years been covered with stickers and graffiti, rendering it useless.

The situation got so dire that a Brooklyn Heights woman, Roslyn Beck, posted her own handmade signs to direct the tens of thousands of tourists who walk the bridge every year, but find nothing to help direct them on the Brooklyn side.

The new signage and light project was commissioned by the DUMBO Improvement District, which has sought a tourist-friendly solution to this dilemma for more than two years.

Borough President Markowitz and City Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) allocated some of the funding.

Sign-maker Andrew Simons created a multi-faceted project that includes not just a huge map and tourist guide, but “Welcome”-mat style concrete slabs positioned at the opening of the stairwell that leads up to the Brooklyn Bridge.

But the most impressive part of the project is light artist Linnaea Tillett’s piece, “This Way,” whose network of fluorescent bulbs steer misguided travelers to their destination.

“There was such a need to turn this dark, uninspiring space where people were confused into something vivid,” said Tillet, who worked with architect Karin Tehve. “The lighting and signage works together to show people their way.”

Visitors were not the only people complaining about the horrific welcome they received on our side of the bridge.

Last year, The Brooklyn Paper described the defaced map and others like it as “totems harkening back to the bad old days when tourists shunned New York entirely.”

But tourists are flocking to this side of the Brooklyn Bridge — and, until now, had to rely on the kindness of strangers.

“Do you know how many people ask me for directions when I walk to work?” said Rachel Brown, whose office is in nearby DUMBO. More than that, Brown said she was frustrated because Brooklyn was losing a chance to capitalize on the tourist influx.

“Tourists get intimidated and go back to Manhattan,” she said.

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