A critical element of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle is the quality of the open space that connects Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Much of this area remains dominated by infrastructure from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) and the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, creating barriers between the Tech Triangle neighborhoods. A number of new public spaces have come online in the last few years, or are in the final stages of pre-development.
As highlighted in the original Strategic Plan, enormous opportunity exists for a 21-acre series of disconnected parks and plazas stretching from Borough Hall to Brooklyn Bridge Park to be transformed into an attractive, safe, and easy-to-navigate central commons for the borough known as the Brooklyn Strand. Since 2013, much progress has been made to help realize this potential. Last year, Mayor de Blasio announced a series of initiatives to further the successful growth of Downtown Brooklyn, including an opportunity to “Reinvent the Brooklyn Strand”— by connecting Downtown Brooklyn and surrounding neighborhoods to its waterfront and creating a great promenade and gateway to the borough.
More than 40 local stakeholder groups worked together for nearly a year to develop and refine ideas for what a re-imagined Brooklyn Strand could look like, culminating in the March 2015 release of a long-term, community driven vision for the areas between Brooklyn Borough Hall and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Recommendations included the creation of a market and gateway to the borough off the Brooklyn Bridge, reopening the Brooklyn War Memorial as a community learning center, building a new iconic space for Borough Hall Park, and creating better bike and pedestrian connections surrounding Cadman Plaza and the Korean War Memorial. Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams recently allocated $1.5 million in funds toward the Borough Hall Park and Brooklyn War Memorial projects.
Meanwhile, efforts are currently underway to complete a community planning process for the areas from the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges underneath the BQE to Commodore Barry Park and connecting to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, with the public vision and recommendations slated for release by the end of the year.
Willoughby Square Park, the planned one-acre green-space that will sit atop an approximate 700-car underground parking garage, continues to move through pre-development phases. A centerpiece of the 2004 rezoning plan for Downtown Brooklyn, the park will create a vibrant destination for daytime, evening, and weekend use by residents, visitors, and workers alike. This investment has already begun to attract cafes, restaurants, and new retail establishments to the area. Located on Willoughby Street between Duffield and Gold Streets in Downtown Brooklyn, half a block from the vibrant Fulton Street Mall, the park will feature a dog run, water fountains, play areas for children, and public art to commemorate the Underground Railroad’s history in Downtown Brooklyn. Demolition began on the site in 2015, and construction is expected to begin in 2016.
The 2013 Strategic Plan recommended the creation of a common identity and programming plan to knit together the disparate venues in the Cultural District into a world-class arts and entertainment destination. Since then, neighborhood stakeholders have come together to develop a distinct streetscape and lighting plan and adopt a name: the Brooklyn Cultural District. The standardization of these elements will help tie together an area that enjoys a variety of architecture, uses, and venue sizes—assets that in the absence of these unifying elements suffered from confusion and diffuse messaging in the past. The first of these streetscape improvements was completed in 2015 and will continue as private development continues throughout the District.
A recommendation of the Cultural District plan was the renovation of BAM Park—a triangular-shaped public space across the street from the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The park has been closed to the public for nearly a decade because the ground settled erratically over subsurface conditions resulting from the improper fill of a demolished building on the site many years ago. Over the past two years City and State funding have been secured to support the rehabilitation and reopening of the Park. In 2015 the new design was approved by the City, and construction is expected to begin in early 2016.
In 2012, the existing bluestone paving in Columbus Park surrounding Brooklyn Borough Hall had deteriorated to a condition that created severe trip hazards and had become aesthetically embarrassing to the neighborhood. In 2015 the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation embarked on an $11 million dollar rehabilitation of the bluestone, replacing much of the paving with a “blue mist granite” that is more durable but aesthetically similar. The park was in dire need of these improvements and they will help create a more inviting entranceway to the Brooklyn Strand.