Climb on! Brooklyn Bridge Park will get a bouldering wall, planners say

Brooklyn Boulder instructor Ivan Greene shows off the Gowanus climbing gym, which will celebrate its second birthday next week.
File photo by Ben Muessig

Hey rock climbers, get a hold of this new plan to build a public bouldering wall as part of a big expansion to Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Park planners want a 10–12-foot wall to rise beneath the Manhattan Bridge at Plymouth and Washington streets, giving borough climbers a free practice facility where they can perfect their technique by working their way up short, challenging routes without ropes in a form of the sport called bouldering.

DUMBO neighbors cheered the newly unveiled plan for the next section of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which also calls for increasing lawn space, relocating a dog run, and creating an entry plaza to the greenspace.

“It’s a huge improvement to what we’re seeing,” said Robert Elmes, the founder of the nearby Galapagos Art Space, who said business has improved as more people frequent the park.

Park planners want to tear down an under-used city-owned paint shed to make room for the project, and convert a second city building beneath the span into a mixed-use facility with classroom space, an area dedicated to park maintenance, and public bathrooms.

Rock climbing is on the rise in Brooklyn and across the city, but the proposal got off to a rocky start with some open space activists, who bashed it as another offering to fans of a niche sport just days after a plan to build a $50-million track cycling velodrome in the park crashed.

“Our whole vision was very, very different and it was ignored,” said Doreen Gallo, the executive director of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance and a member of the Community Advisory Council for Brooklyn Bridge Park, which gives recommendations for park planning and operations. “[Brooklyn Bridge Park planners] are supposed to take community input, which is being ignored.”

Gallo said her group has come up with an alternative plan for the area — one that calls for more open space and “earthen ground” to offer up better vistas of the bridge and waterfront from Washington Street.

But climbers say the city has enough great views — but not enough forearm-burning, skin-tearing, bouldering routes.

“There are plenty of parks and photo opp places for tourists already, give us something to climb on!” said Williamsburg resident Dan Gingold via email from a climbing trip across the West Coast and Mexico.

And park planners assured the bouldering wall would not block vistas, noting that they plan on shaving the corners off the remaining city building to better open up waterfront view corridors.

“You’ll see the bouldering wall as you walk in but it won’t be obstructing views,” said Jennifer Klein, the vice president of capital planning and construction for the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation. “We’re really using topography to get people’s eyes moving out into the park and out into the river and the pier of the Manhattan Bridge as well.”

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