The ‘park’ stops here

The ‘park’ stops here
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

The highly touted first phase of the proposed Brooklyn Bridge Park — a grand, Euro-style piazza and skating rink under the Brooklyn Bridge that was supposed to open next fall — will be delayed at least five years.

Planners of the 1.3-mile waterfront open space and condo development promised as recently as June — when they began tearing down the Purchase Building that stood on the site since the 1930s — that the open-air plaza underneath the fabled span would open in fall, 2009.

But they made that pledge before actually obtaining control over the site from the city or even coordinating the park’s construction with the Department of Transportation, which says it needs the newly cleared space to perform “necessary” repair work on the 125-year-old bridge.

The plaza, depicted in lush renderings as the possible site for a summer greenmarket and a winter ice-skating rink, will be sidetracked for at least five years, according to the Department of Transportation.

“The Department of Transportation will be utilizing space under the Brooklyn Bridge to conduct necessary repairs to the bridge before that section of the park is completed. The precise timing and size of the space needed is being finalized,” said Warner Johnston, a spokesman for the state agency that is hoping to build the $300-million–plus development, which stretches along the DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights waterfront.

Supporters of the park and condo development are urging the city to find another place to conduct its bridge repairs so the plaza can go ahead as scheduled.

“Bridge Plaza will be an iconic section of Brooklyn Bridge Park, and is slated to be one of the earliest sections to open,” Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy spokeswoman Nancy Webster wrote in an e-mail. “The Conservancy hopes that the Department of Transportation can find a different solution to its construction laydown needs.”

The DOT still owns the land where plaza will be built. The agency says it will transfer it to Brooklyn Bridge Park officials after the bridge renovation, which is necessary and can not be put off.

That said, the bridge work is not scheduled, has been delayed several times before, and won’t begin until at least the start of 2009.

“This is necessary safety work that has been planned for years,” said department spokesman Seth Solomonow. “It can’t be staged elsewhere.”

The setback at Bridge Plaza is yet another delay in the tortured 20-year history to build a water-side park.

Even its recent history is full of unkept promises. In 2002, when then-Gov. Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg allocated $150 million for the building of the open space portion of the sprawling development, it was scheduled to be finished by 2012.

Now, the projected costs exceed $300 million — of which only $225 million have been set aside, meaning that large parts won’t meet the 2012 finish date.

“People’s expectations and hopes have been toyed with,” said Ken Baer, a Sierra Club official and longtime critic of the development’s financing scheme, which required the addition of luxury housing to subsidize park maintenance.

Looks great, huh? This piazza was supposed to open as part of Brooklyn Bridge Park next fall, but it will be delayed by at least five years, city officials say.
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates