Park progress: Special Edition – An Inside Look!


Yesterday evening, your correspondent joined a group of thirty or so people, including BHB contributor Matthew Parker and Brooklyn Heights Association Board of Governors member Martin Schneider, for a tour of the northern portion (Piers 1 and 2) of the construction site for Brooklyn Bridge Park. Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation President Regina Myer (photo above) greeted us, after which we split into two smaller groups for the tour. More photos and text follow the jump.


Steve Noone, a senior associate at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., Landscape Architects, the prime contractor for the park project, was the guide for my group.


Following Steve, we walked southward up the hill that has been deposited on Pier 1, made of material excavated in the construction of the LIRR “Midtown Connector” tunnel. The southern portion of Pier 1 can bear the weight of this fill, because it is itself built on landfill instead of on pilings. The tall poles will support lights.


Above is a view from near the summit of the hill, which is 27′ above the level of the pier deck. The other group is passing on what will become a riverside esplanade.


Looking southward along the soon-to-be esplanade, the “River Stairs” leading up the hill are to the right. These are made from stone removed from one of the Harlem River bridges during its reconstruction.


We’re looking eastward now, along what in a previous post I called the “Grand Canyon”. The cold storage warehouse buildings in the background are soon to be demolished. The older parts of the building complex contain timbers from a now-extinct species of Southern longleaf pine, a portion of which will be used for park benches. The plan is for these buildings to be replaced by a hotel and residential complex. The building that will replace the one on the right in the photo will be considerably lower than the existing one, and will thereby open up a larger view plane from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. There will also be a gap between that building and the new center building (the center is the tall one with “National” on the top, which is planned to be replaced by a slightly lower building) which will afford a clear view of the River from Squibb Park.

The wall at the right of the photo above marks the southern boundary of the newer portion of Pier 1, which, as noted above, sits on landfill. To the right is the older, northern portion, which sits on pilings. The deck is to be removed, leaving the pilings to provide a habitat for marine life and as a kind of picturesque ruin, rather like the plan for Pier 4 (the small wooden former railroad pier near the foot of Montague Street), which is to leave it as is. Steve pointed out that the exposed pilings will “express” the routes of the tunnels for the 2 and 3 trains, because there will be gaps between the pilings along the tunnel routes.


Walking eastward by the “Grand Canyon”, we came to a broad patch of water that is slated to become a salt marsh. It will be planted with spartina, a marsh grass common on the Northeastern coast (and also a damn good novel).


Here’s a view of the Promenade and BQE from a fresh perspective.


Kayaks and rowboats will be able to use the “safe water” canal that has been opened between Pier 2 and the shore, at the right in the photo above, and which will be continued next to Pier 3. (In response to a question raised by reader Andrew Porter in the comments to my previous Park Progress post, Steve confirmed that there will be safety barriers to prevent boats from straying under the pier structures.) The body of water extending to the left in the photo is a “spiral pool” that will provide a means of entrance to and exit from the canal for kayaks and small boats.

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  • Matthew Parker

    Claude: Good write up. Nice meeting you yesterday at the site tour.

  • Cranberry Beret

    Maybe it’s past my bedtime, but your comment about the express trains…what??

  • Claude Scales

    What Steve meant is that the pattern of the uncovered pilings sticking out of the water will “express” (i.e. indicate) the routes of the two parallel subway tunnels under the River, because no pilings were driven above the tunnels, for obvious reasons. Imagine a piece of paper with dots on it that are evenly spaced in rows and columns, except that there are two parallel strips going through it where there are no dots.

    Maybe this factoid just isn’t interesting enough to try to describe in words, lacking the ability to quickly and easily make a picture.

  • nabeguy

    They’re tearing down the National building? Geez, I’m not even dead and I’m rolling in my grave At least tell me that they’ll try to preserve the frieze that contains the actual lettering, which is, INMHO, an iconic masterpiece of typographic application.

  • Claude Scales

    It would be nice if they could do some sort of adaptive re-use of that part of the building, in the manner of the Eagle Warehouse.

  • nabeguy

    Looks like it’s me and you tonight Claude. Adaptive reuse is great. but lowering the building to accommodate the views will still result in the destruction of that frieze. Man, give it to me, I’ll find a place for it.

  • aaron

    what are the chances of them putting in a 4/5 subway station stop at furman st and joralemon? the tunnel runs right up joralemon… would be nice. i guess i’ll keep dreaming

  • nabeguy

    About as good as them re-opening the Atlantic Avenue Railroad.

  • JB


    They are going to demolish those old warehouses! What a waste. They’ll be wishing they had such a beautiful facade on their waterfront when they unveil what will certainly be more boring cheapo glass and grid construction.

    What a drag.

  • Peter

    I went on this same tour a month or so ago and specifically asked about preserving those buildings. Michael Van Valkenburg himself told me that the buildings have been studied a dozen times in every which way and no one can come up with a way to adapt them for anything resembling a reasonable cost — as solid as they look, apparently they’re just too far gone inside.

    I think Claude did a good job describing some of the advantages to the buildings coming down — as meager as they may seem in comparison to keeping the buildings, and as he said, the timbers from inside will be recycled into the park. Specifically, about 70% of the timbers will be fashioned into many, many benches throughout the park as well as siding for a few of the smaller support buildings (bathrooms, etc.) When I asked about the lifespan of the timbers if exposed to the elements like that I vaguely recall was told that they wouldn’t starting rotting for at *least* 70 years.

    Finally, I can’t help but wonder… if this park was built 20 years ago… would the buildings have been in good enough shape to save?

    Recommending books so good, they’ll keep you up past your bedtime. ;)

  • martinlbrooklyn

    Claude’s pictures and descriptions succeed in beginning to capture the amazing variety of landscape, terrain and ecologiically interesting elements being built here. The loss of the 1860 buildings is well-compensated for by opening up the view plane for Promenade visitors. The rescue and creative reuse of some 17,000 feet of magnificent and long-gone pine is another plus in the handling of the obsolete warehouses. The reuse of the granite bridge facing as a magnificent and huge stone bleacher for America gazing is another creative application of conservation. And, Claude did not mention the fact that the tens of thousands of cubic yards of chewed up granite fill being piled on come from the LIRR tunnel being dug out up the river. Bargain priced and pure as the driven snow. Sometimes a tight budget leads to highly creative and very positive results. Good going Park Team!!!

  • Claude Scales

    Martin: if you look at my post again, under the third photo you’ll see that I did mention the source of the fill being deposited on Pier 1 as being the LIRR “Midtown Connector” tunnel.

  • BklynJace

    A very well-done, useful and interesting write-up. Thank you for it.

  • XYZ

    Will the tall poles for the lights be shortened or will they keep the lenght? They are pretty tall beasts if you look from the promenade. I am surprise they did not pick anything more “tasteful”.