Brooklyn Bridge Park – a 34-hectare park on Brooklyn’s East River shoreline, is a revitalisation of the area’s post-industrial waterfront. In this case study, we learn about how this project helps to reclaim derelict industrial areas, create new parkland and reconnect New York residents to the waterfront in an environmentally sustainable manner.
||New York City
||Ongoing since 2008
A visualisation to show the full build-out to Brooklyn Bridge Park before and after © NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
- Brooklyn Bridge Park is a 34-hectare sustainable waterfront park on Brooklyn’s East River shoreline. The park revitalises 2.1 kilometres of Brooklyn’s post-industrial waterfront from Atlantic Avenue, under the Brooklyn Bridge, to Jay Street north of the Manhattan Bridge.
- The site includes Brooklyn Piers 1 through 6, Fulton Ferry Landing, and two existing redesigned parks – Empire Fulton Ferry Park and Main Street Park. It also includes two Civil War-era structures, Empire Stores and the Tobacco Warehouse.
- The park is a flagship project to reclaim derelict industrial areas, create new parkland and reconnect New York residents to the waterfront area in an environmentally sustainable manner.
- The park is one of the 127 initiatives under PlaNYC, which addresses the city’s challenges of a growing population (1 million increase by 2030): need for new capacity, competition for space, deteriorating infrastructure and climate change.
- The park features rolling hills, riverfront promenades, innovative play areas, and diverse planting typologies.
Key issues faced before the implementation of the project
Pier 1 Bridge before the transformation © Julienne Schaer
- Decline of shipping industry; port and warehouse activities ceased to generate revenue.
- The need to provide more publicly accessible open spaces in Brooklyn as no major park has been built since prospect park in the 1860s.
- Underused and publicly inaccessible waterfront, with many structures and parts of the piers deteriorated after decades of disuse and neglect.
- The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway separated the Brooklyn Height neighbourhood from the waterfront, cutting through surface streets and disrupted the vehicular and pedestrian circulation.
Leadership and governance
Pier 1 during the construction © Julienne Schaer
- Brooklyn Bridge Park was created through a partnership between the city and the state.
The park is governed by a 17-member board of directors appointed by the Mayor of New York City, the Governor of New York State and local elected officials.
- The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation – a public non-profit entity – is responsible for the planning, construction, maintenance and operation of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
- The Corporation operates under a mandate, embodied by its General Project Plan to be financially self-sustaining, which includes the activation of certain development sites within the project’s footprint.
- The planning of the park was advocated by the local communities and neighbourhood leaders looking for less intensive use of the property. Together, elected officials joined with members of the communities to produce a practical plan, skilfully won the commitment of government funds during the time of economic uncertainty.
Creativity and innovation
Pier 6 features a slide mountain that creates a dynamic play area emphasising interaction with the natural environment © Julienne Schaer
- The project comprehensively incorporates sustainable practices in its planning, design, construction and operation to minimise environmental impacts with extensive reuse of on-site structures, fixtures and recycle materials.
- The design of the park is based on the structural capacity of the piers with heavier infrastructure-dependent elements being located on the uplands and lighter landscapes on the pile supported piers.
- The park operates under a mandate to be financially self-sustaining. The park administration leverages on the power of community and business groups to finance and maintain public spaces through a plan that allows the park to support ongoing maintenance and operations and repairs without the need for government funds. Under the plan, approximately 10% of the site was set aside for the development of residential buildings and a hotel that will generate revenue through ground leases and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) from One Brooklyn Park housing project.
Impacts of the project
Over $300 million economic output
Increased in visitorship
Created 150 construction jobs per year
Increase in residential sales
Icons made by Good Ware from www.flaticon.com
- The project transformed a derelict industrial Brooklyn waterfront into an attractive and accessible urban park.
- Increase in sales of residential units of the neighbourhoods adjacent to the park.
- Since its opening, Brooklynites, New Yorkers and tourists have flocked to the park, whether by foot, ferry or bus.
- The park has reconnected New Yorkers with the river through various activities such as kayaking and rowing, seining, water taxi launches, and enjoyment of the newly created salt marsh.
- Adjacent neighbourhoods severed from the park site by city infrastructure were re-engaged with programme-rich urban nodes at existing connection points.
- The park’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (2005) states that upon full build-out the park will create a total of 1,469 jobs (maintenance, operations, & administrative). Construction of the park will create the equivalent of 150 construction jobs per year of construction, over $300 million in direct and indirect economic output with $18 million non-property related tax revenues.
Brooklyn Bridge Park after revitalisation © Julienne Schaer
- The park’s financial plan can serve as a model for other large-scale urban redevelopment projects where maintenance funds are scarce.
- The master plan design reflects many practical values that can be replicated including the site’s programmatic layout dictated by the piers’ structural capacity, the placement of the planted berms to mitigate noise impacts from the adjacent elevated highway; its self-sustaining measures including storm-water management, and its reuse of salvaged materials. O