Keeping the faith: Locals want to rethink planned plaza under Brooklyn Bridge • Brooklyn Paper

Keeping the faith: Locals want to rethink planned plaza under Brooklyn Bridge

Bon Jovi performs in front of the Brooklyn Bridge in this classic 2005 file photo. That could become a reality once again under the park’s plan to build a big public plaza there that can host concerts.
File photo by Tom Callan

Wooooah-oooooh, Brooklyn Bridge Park is halfway there in planning a new plaza, but — woooooah-oooooh — locals are livin’ on a prayer that they can change park honchos’ minds.

The park plans on turning the vacant space under its namesake bridge into a public square where it can host an ice-skating rink in winter and concerts in the summer — a la Bon Jovi’s 2005 music video for “Welcome To Wherever You Are,” which was filmed nearby back when it was Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park — but neighbors want to go back to the drawing board.

The park’s community advisory panel is demanding it schedule public workshops — so-called “charettes” — to discuss other ideas for the space, and members passed a unanimous resolution to that effect at their March 7 meeting.

“A big plaza that will hold 4,000 people — is that good for the park, good for surrounding communities? Before you make these decisions, our request is a community-based planning process,” said member Judi Francis, one of 14 local civic and business leaders on the Community Advisory Council.

The decree came after park officials presented their vision for the piazza — a gathering space potentially used for festivals, farmers markets, and the aforementioned winter wonderland, that can hold thousands of people, plus large barriers around the bridge to protect it from attacks — according to those present.

Park bigwigs refused to share the designs with this paper, despite showing them at the public meeting, claiming they are “just preliminary.”

A spokesman did respond by saying what they have already dubbed “Brooklyn Bridge Plaza” was based on charettes held between 2000 and 2005 — before any of the park was built — but the panel members will have a chance to give their two cents as it works its way through their own design committee.

But Francis says they don’t want to offer decorating tips on a pre-decided plan — they want to rethink the whole space before it is set in stone — and as Jon Bon Jovi once wailed, it is now or never.

“We are shown designs when the park has already developed them and we are told, ‘Oh it is now finished and we can’t change it,’ ” said Francis, who’d personally like to see it used for a quieter, grassy area. “It is not input but engagement before it is a ‘done deal’ that we requested.”

Residents are particularly invested in the spot because it was the site of the iconic old Purchase Building that the park razed in 2008 — and they want to make sure the destruction was worth it, another committee member said.

“People are very sensitive and that part,” said Doreen Gallo, who wants to discuss restoring a cobblestone street that used to run through the space.

Even Park Corporation allies think the public should get a say in this final piece of the park puzzle — the head of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, which runs programming and fund-raising for the park, also voted in favor of the resolution.

Conservancy head Nancy Webster later hedged, saying she doesn’t necessarily want to go back to square one at this stage — she is pro-plaza — but she generally supports the notion that locals should get to weigh in, and she’s confident they’ll get to as the park usually seeks plenty of public feedback.

“Using the language of ‘public charettes’ is a little misleading given where the park is at in the design processes,” said Webster. “Nevertheless, public input is always a good thing.”

Park leaders told the council they don’t have all the funds for the makeover right now, and are hoping to use taxpayer dollars courtesy of local Council members or Borough President Adams.

Reach deputy editor Ruth Brown at rbrown@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8309. Follow her at twitter.com/rbbrown.
Town sqaure-off: The space under the Brooklyn Bridge is slated to become a big public plaza, but locals want to discuss other options.
Community News Group / Ruth Brown

More from Around New York