Broad Agreement Paves the Way for Development at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Lisa W. Foderaro reports on a new deal that enables adaptive reuse of historic structures and commercial development at Brooklyn Bridge Park, and ends a long-simmering dispute.
May 30, 2012, 5am PDT | elmahoney
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Brooklyn Bridge Park is clearing the way for commercial development in the area formerly known as Empire Fulton Ferry Park. The Tobacco Warehouse, currently a brick shell from the Civil War Era, and Empire Stores will be redeveloped into a cultural facility and commercial retail complex. Brooklyn Bridge Park was developed beginning in 2007 as part of a chain of parks along the East River, which will incorporate the Brooklyn Greenway. When the project is completed the East River will be flanked by a series of parks and a continuous bike path similar in concept to Boston's Emerald Necklace. The park currently incorporates Pier 1, Pier 6, and Empire Fulton Ferry into a series of playgrounds, seating, natural landscapes, and, most recently, a restored carousel encased in a glass box designed by Jean Nouvel.

The existing Tobacco warehouse shell sits on a natural beach with a small strip of sand and and rocks bordered by tall native grasses. The site provides a pleasant alternative to the heavily landscaped hills south of the Brooklyn Bridge. The warehouse was initially promised to St. Ann's Warehouse, a local avant-garde theatre which has been in the neighborhood since 2000. Last July, a Federal District Court ruled against St. Ann's occupation of the site warning it would set a dangerous precedent for both historic properties and park land to be threatened by commercial interests.

Senator Daniel L. Squadron and Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman helped broker the development agreement in response to the court's injunction. In exchange for Empire Stores and Tobacco Warehouse, the state will donate one acre of parkland, which will be planned through a community design process.

Despite the agreement of neighborhood associations, critics claim much of the land already feels privatized. For critics, the trend of privatizing public space through commercial enterprise is a mounting concern as many cities are seeking ways to fund park maintenance in light of depleted budgets.

Thanks to Elaine Mahoney

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Published on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 in New York Times
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