Southern Brooklyn pols advocate for fed investment into waterfront promenade

Superstorm Sandy ripped chunks out of the protective sea wall along the Shore Promenade and Belt Parkway.
File photo

Southern Brooklyn politicians are asking New York Senator Chuck Schumer to not forget about the deteriorating Shore Parkway Promenade when negotiating a large federal infrastructure bill currently before Congress.

“We write today to request that you include $50 million for an important resiliency infrastructure project in southern Brooklyn as part of the pending federal infrastructure bill currently being negotiated in Congress: the reconstruction of the Shore Parkway Promenade,” wrote State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, Assemblymember Michael Tannousis, State Sen. Diane Savino, City Councilmember Justin Brannan, Assemblymember Peter Abbate, City Councilmember Mark Treyger and Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus in a June 15 letter.

The elected officials are calling on the federal government to invest $50 million into the 4-mile waterfront walkway and bike path that they say is in “incredibly poor condition”— riddled with large sinkholes, lacking public facilities and outfitted with undeveloped green space.

“Its four miles of uninterrupted waterfront access from the pier to Bay Parkway,” Gounardes told Brooklyn Paper. “And it’s some of the most beautiful views in the entire city and yet if you look it’s poorly maintained, its rundown, there are giant sinkholes in it.” 

The sinkholes are a remnant of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012, when storm surge flooded sections of the promenade in Bath Beach and exacerbated the erosion of the walkway’s underlying bulkheads.

“During Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, large sections of the promenade along Bath Beach were breached by the storm surge, flooding the Belt Parkway and residential neighborhoods on the other side of the highway,” the pols wrote. “The storms also exacerbated the erosion of the bulkheads under the promenade, causing a spiraling effect leading to more sinkholes and more structural instability.”

Gounardes told Brooklyn Paper he hopes the federal investment could launch the transformation of the Shore Parkway Promenade into his vision of a Narrows Waterfront Park, a plan he has dreamt up over the years of redeveloping the space into a “recreation destination” like Brooklyn Bridge Park or the East River Blueway in Manhattan.

“My vision is to take the waterfront promenade that we already have which is pretty nice in terms of its potential,” Gounardes said. “If you go to places like the [Upper] West Side or Brooklyn Bridge Park… you see really creative ideas as to how we can reclaim the waterfront and redesign the waterfront.” 

Some of his ideas for the southern Brooklyn waterfront are building out an empty space at Bay 8th Street into a 13-acre park with comfort stations, picnic tables and other amenities; enhancing sections of the promenade with attractions like a dog park or playground; improving pedestrian and bike paths from the 69th Street pier in Bay Ridge to Caesar’s Bay in Gravesend and building small piers and docks for fishing; constructing connections from the handful of parks nearby the promenade; hosting outdoor and holiday events throughout the year; connecting the promenade to Coney Island; and upgrading Caesar’s Bay with green spaces, a pier with ferry access and a new separate bike path from the Verrazano Bridge to the waterfront shopping complex. 

“I think this could be the crown jewel of a southern Brooklyn greenway landscape,” Gounardes said. 

And as sea levels are rising and coastal-lying nabes are more prone to flooding, the pols advocate for a resilient redesign of the promenade— and the city Parks Department agrees, as they are underway in a visioning process to revitalize the waterfront from Americans Veterans Memorial Pier in Bay Ridge to Coney Island, pols wrote, a project bicycle advocates say ignores crucial gaps in the Brooklyn Greenway. 

The legislators argue the $50 million from the federal government are necessary to reconstruct all of the promenade’s bulkheads as well as install berms along the walkway to protect its adjacent neighborhoods from future storm surges. 

“Investing $50 million in this project is critical to rebuild the bulkheads underneath the promenade and installing resiliency measures such as raised berms to repel future storm surges,” the pols wrote. “It is imperative that we take steps now to reconstruct the Shore Parkway Promenade and help protect the low-lying coastal neighborhoods of southern Brooklyn that we represent from rising sea levels and future storms.”

The group not only chose to target their advocacy to Schumer because he is their state’s representative in the Senate but also because he is a well-known cyclist, especially in his hometown of Brooklyn, Gounardes told Brooklyn Paper. 

The Shore Parkway Promenade was also recently the subject of complaints, as it has seen an increase in the use of electric scooters and bikes which other users of the space say whiz past at alarming speeds.