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Bridge ‘Park’ can find no ‘Purchase’

The Brooklyn Paper
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Demolition teams have made short work of the iconic Purchase Building beneath the Brooklyn Bridge to clear space for a piazza that will be part of the controversial Brooklyn Bridge Park project.

The condo, commercial and open-space development along the DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights waterfront has long anticipated the destruction of the two-story Modernist relic built as part of FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s — and that’s a good thing, say project boosters, who are excited by the current plan for a Euro-style open space under the Brooklyn Bridge where the Purchase Building stood.

“You gain a wonderful park entrance with great views of the harbor,” and Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Development Corporation. “You get the ability to connect the northern and southern portions of the park.”

The brick-and-concrete building could not have been torn down had it not, in 2006, lost the protection it enjoyed as part of the Fulton Ferry Historic District. At that time, city officials lobbied the Landmarks Preservation Commission to cut the building out of the district because the historic building would obstruct views from the new park.

Some lament that decision.

“We’re losing a good example of early Modernist architecture when that thing was done with a certain kind of panache,” said Francis Morrone, a Brooklyn architecture critic.

The building had many lives during its years in city service, earning its name after being christened as a warehouse for the city’s “Department of Purchase.” It remained a warehouse for other city agencies for decades, and, for a time after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, became the home of the Office of Emergency Management.

The plaza is slated to be finished by next fall, according to Brooklyn Bridge Park officials, making it one of the first areas of the long-delayed park that could open. But with only $225 million of the soaring $300-plus-million park construction budget allocated so far, about one third of the development has been delayed until additional funding is secured.

Updated 5:28 pm, July 31, 2008
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