Park planner to speak at BHA annual meeting

A renown landscape architect will be the keynote speaker at the Brooklyn Heights Association’s annual meeting, an occasion marking the group’s 100th year in existence.

At the meeting, Michael Van Valkenburgh, the principal landscape architect for the portion of Brooklyn Bridge Park below the Heights, will offer a talk entitled, “The landscape of the city: Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

Judy Stanton, the executive director of the BHA, said Van Valkenburgh is a timely choice for a keynote speaker, as the park is expected to open imminently.

“We are very excited about it,” she said, adding that the association has always enjoyed a good working relationship with Van Valkenburgh. After all, she noted, “He lives in the Heights.”

But Van Valkenburgh has his critics too.Fred Kent, a Cobble Hill resident and president of Project for Public Spaces, said that while Van Valkenburgh is viewed within the landscape profession as a leading designer, his philosophy is not community based and offers insufficient public input.

“He doesn’t want a community process because that interferes with his design and we are getting a product that is a one-dimensionaldesign rather than a broad community destination that has multiple uses and activities that will generate a broad constituency of users,” said Kent. “He’s created what many would consider a visual amenity rather than a usable public space.”

Stanton said issues of local concern are also expected to be addressed at the annual meeting, which will feature community service awards, presented by public television personality Tom Stewart, a Heights resident.

The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 23 at Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, 75 Hicks Street at 7:00 p.m. The meeting is free and open to the public. For more information, call the Brooklyn Heights Association at 718-858-9193 or email info@thebha.org, or go to the group’s newly revamped Web site, www.thebha.org,

–With Stephen Witt