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DUMBO — historyland or Disneyland? • Brooklyn Paper

DUMBO — historyland or Disneyland?

Replacement of old Belgian block stones is almost finished on Washington Street.

More of DUMBO’s charming Belgian block streets will be restored as part of a just announced $20-million project — but some locals are worried the roadwork will be more “Disney World” than historic neighborhood.

On Tuesday, city officials announced another infusion of cash for a reconstruction project that began two years ago with the refurbishment of cobbled Washington and Water streets.

“The charm of DUMBO is in its historic character,” said Alexandria Sica, executive director of the DUMBO Improvement District. “Now we’re finally getting the money to make it look like a historic village and give these bumpy streets some TLC.”

But for some residents and history buffs, the stone job is “historically inaccurate” and too expensive. On Washington Street, for instance, some new stones were placed down the center of the street to make it more bike friendly. And on Water Street, the blocks are turned at a different angle for a bike path.

“They can justify this until their heads fall off but there’s nothing historic about this — it looks like Disney World,” said Doreen Gallo of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance.

Many streets in the historic neighborhood still bear the ugly scars of prior roadwork.

Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, agreed.

“The city hasn’t done great jobs of maintaining the historic pavements throughout the city,” Bankoff said. “Most of the time, it ends up costing a lot more money. They’re ripping everything up without numbering it and retaining historic materials.”

City officials defended their restoration work.

“The street was restored with the original Belgian blocks, which were removed, cleaned and stored while underground work was completed,” said Craig Chin, a spokesman for the Department of Design and Construction, the agency in charge of the revamp.

Belgian blocks are made of granite, first used in Belgium, but quarried in New England. Such paving stones were widely used in the mid-1800s in commercial areas including DUMBO and Lower Manhattan because they withstood the wear of carts and carriages. They were phased out by the end of the century when the city began using less-expensive concrete.

Here’s what a half-dozen DUMBO streets will look like when the work is all done.

Since then, periodic road repairs have left many old-style streets pockmarked with tar, asphalt and cement patches.

Two summers ago, the city began reconstructing Water and Washington streets to prevent people from tripping over the perilous, uneven paving. That work should be completed by the end of the month.

The latest DUMBO revamp will include Main Street and sections of Plymouth, Adams and Water streets east of the Manhattan Bridge. The project will also widen the popular Pearl Street Triangle plaza by demapping Anchorage Place and paving it with Belgian blocks as well.

The work will begin in 2013, city officials said.

Reach Kate Briquelet at kbriquelet@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.

New broom: Construction worker Joao Rebelo is almost ready to put the final sweep on the nearly finished Belgian block restoration of Washington Street in historic DUMBO.

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