City starts work on long-stalled Brooklyn War Memorial accessibility upgrades

Brooklyn War Memorial
The city started work to bring the Brooklyn War Memorial up to code in January.
Photo by Amalia Arms

The city has finally kicked off a years-in-the-works project to make the Brooklyn War Memorial at Cadman Plaza Park wheelchair accessible, according to officials.

The city’s Parks Department began work on the nearly $4 million renovation in January after years of rescheduling the start of construction. The project consists of installing an elevator and a ramp at the Downtown Brooklyn memorial, which honors Brooklynites who fought during World War II.

One veteran said it’s about time.

“After all these years they’re finally doing something now,” said Marine Park resident Jack Vanasco, 92, who served as an army corporal from 1939 to 1947.

Contractors with the city set up a fence around the shrine’s western section some time at the beginning of the year, where they plan to build a ramp. Workers will also install an elevator from the ground floor restroom to the first floor auditorium, where a wall bares the names of 11,500 Brooklyn boys who fought and died during the conflict.

Workers fenced off the shrine’s western section, where they plan to install a wheelchair-accessible ramp.Photo by Amalia Arms

The project is scheduled to wrap in January 2021, according to the agency’s capital project tracker, though its launch follows years of delays since it was first announced in 2017.

One local park steward who lobbied for the upgrade is relieved that the city’s slow-moving bureaucracy is finally moving forward.

“We’re incredibly encouraged by this,” said Cadman Plaza Park Conservancy President Toba Potosky. “For too long the city neglected the memorial.”

Potosky, who lives right across the street from the park, noted that he’s seen the fence, but has yet to witness workers break ground on the site.

The overhaul was originally supposed to start in 2018, but was stalled for a year due to an accounting error, parks honchos claimed. 

The agency then pushed the start date back for several months to November because of trouble with the elevator manufacturer, and yet again missed that deadline because they had to do some last-minute asbestos remediation, according to spokeswoman Anessa Hodgson.

A rendering of the Brooklyn War Memorial redesign.Courtesy of NYC Parks

The city built the granite and limestone memorial in 1951 under the auspices of then-Parks Commissioner and master builder Robert Moses, who planned to erect a similar monument in each of the five boroughs. However, only the Kings County memorial ever materialized.

The interior hall was open for special events and by appointment until the early 1990s, when the city shuttered it due to lack of accessibility features and after the passing of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

Vanasco, a Fort Greene native, said he hopes to see the tribute back open in his lifetime so he can honor his fallen brethren. 

“We have at least 25 to 30 people that are friends of ours from the neighborhood that are on that wall,” he said. “Most people don’t even know about it.”