Brooklyn Bridge Park Access Denied

Barriers to Pier 1

By all estimation, Tuesday afternoon June 15, was one of those uniquely beautiful days which should be spent outside, walking/rolling around Brooklyn Heights. Since I had not been down to Pier 1 Park recently, that was my destination after conducting some errands. However, you cannot fully appreciate my rage when I discovered that it is practically impossible for a person in a wheelchair to now get into Pier 1, without making a very dangerous trip along Furman Street in heavy traffic. This is completely unacceptable.

In my new capacity as a member of Community Board 2, I am reluctant to promote the opinion that people with disabilities are always complaining. I would like to think that as a concerned resident of Brooklyn Heights, I should not have to “ghetto-ize” myself into the de facto leader of the disability community, only being begrudgingly listened to in matters concerning accessibility. But for the time being, I’m going to embrace my new position as “disabled complainer” and make some observations.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy and The Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation have dramatically failed in preparing an adequate plan for getting people to/from the park. At both Pier 1 & Pier 6 there is a serious accident waiting to happen. Having people cross a busy on-ramp to a major highway or walk in the street while construction is occurring, is simply a bad idea. A number of my friends have been injured (corner of Clinton & Montague) or killed by being hit by automobiles. Consequently, I pay very careful attention to pedestrian safety considerations. Is it too much to ask that foreseeable problems related to pedestrian safety be addressed by the Conservancy and Development Corporation?

In terms of the features within Brooklyn Bridge Park, it does not appear that much thought was given to ensuring that all people could enjoy Brooklyn Bridge Park. In the Design profession, there is a concept called “Universal Design” which strives to create products, buildings and public spaces which are usable by everyone. The team that has been working on this facility seems to be unfamiliar with this concept. Additionally, this idea of Universal Design is important, because as the population ages, there are more people with varying disabilities every day.

Although there are a few features that are obviously accessible, (accessible port-a-san and some parking spaces), accessibility is not all that important. For instance, the crushed rock surface material at Pier 6 is a problem for many people with a variety of mobility impairments and, might even be illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Likewise, from my limited investigation, I did not see any playground equipment that kids with disabilities might use. Another simple example of the failure to incorporate principles of Universal Design is with the telescopes found at Pier 1 which are inaccessible.

In the 1989 film “Field of Dreams”, Kevin Costner made his cliché statement “If you build it, they will come”. Logically, the opposite of that statement is that if something is not constructed, people will not come. If accessibility is not more visibly included in the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklynites with disabilities will not come and not have the same opportunity to enjoy this world-class public space, which has been under consideration for more than two decades. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation needs to do a much better job of proactively creating a public space that all people can use and enjoy.

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  • bklyn20

    I have to keep this one short , but: again, too many elements of this park are turining out to be form over function — and in this case, to the nth degree.

  • epc

    Wow…I thought it was bad last week when I got kicked off Fulton Landing by a Parks “officer” at midnight (informing me that Fulton Landing was now part of Pier 1 and therefore closed then), but I was just down there and Pier 1 is all but inaccessible to anyone. You either have to wander through the River Cafe parking lot with its various barricades, or cross the BQE bypass race strip known as Furman Street. The entire plaza in front of Fulton Landing is closed off as well as the sidewalk next to Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.

    Seriously, who amongst NYC/NYS/DoT/BBPDC/Skanska/whomever else thought this was a good idea? Someone is going to get hit by the idiots who think they’ve found the secret shortcut around BQE traffic, so who’s neck is on the line when this happens?

    Does no one sit back and look at the multiple projects going on and think “Huh, maybe we should coordinate this better?”

  • T.K. Small

    My blog posting above originated with an e-mail that I sent to public officials in the area. This morning I got a response from a Chief of Staff of one of the politicians.

    According to this person, “We had a walk-through with DOT and folks from the Fulton Ferry Landing Association last Friday to discuss a number of pedestrian and traffic issues around Pier 1. Some of the issues, we were told, will be resolved when the construction along Furman Street is completed. We had a similar walk-through with DOT in February along Columbia Street, starting at Atlantic Avenue, and they are already looking at ways to make access to Pier 6 safer for everyone.”

    Somehow, these problems are especially foreseeable and I do not understand why a better plan was not developed and implemented.

  • nabeguy

    And the situation is not made any better by the tour buses and stretch wedding limos that park anywhere they can wedge themselves in. It’s like the Wild West down there, with the duels being fought between the pedestrians and the cars.

  • T.K. Small

    Just so people know that I am not making up imaginary possibilities, take a look at:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/01/nyregion/01bigcity.html?scp=1&sq=Harry%20Wieder&st=cse

  • epc

    I guess the point I’d raise to the Chief of Staff is that the construction on Furman/Water seems to be disconnected from the construction going on at the park entrance, leading to a complete mess. Of course it’ll all be resolved when the construction is completed, but the current situation is ridiculous. At a minimum the barricades surrounding the River Cafe parking lot should be adjusted to make it less hostile to people trying to get to Fulton Landing.

    I don’t know what to suggest about making crossing Furman safer other than posting NYPD traffic there or a Parks Dept officer.
    At a minimum, parking should be banned on the bit of roadway in front of 2 Fulton St. As it is, trucks/ice cream trucks like to park there and block the view of the crosswalk to/from the park.

  • ashton

    it is a mess down there. we are all going to have to wait patiently for the new Dock Street building to be built and for the apartments to go on the market before we see any of the new amenities promised to the public. There is no financial motive to have anything finished or accessible until then. Dock Street is the driver of this bus.

  • nabeguy

    Ashton, you’re so misguided, I’d be surprised if you could even find your way to BPP. As much as you’d like to tout Walentas as a saviour, the only thing he saves is his own ass. He could care f-all about what the city is doing on property that he doesn’t own. In fact, he probably hates this park for drawing the masses to Walentas-ville..

  • cat

    “We had a similar walk-through with DOT in February along Columbia Street, starting at Atlantic Avenue, and they are already looking at ways to make access to Pier 6 safer for everyone.”

    And yet they didn’t catch the “right turn on red” at the eastbound entrance to the BQE on Atlantic in February? They waited until the masses came and then they decided to look at ways to make access to the piers safe? How about making it safe before the masses come and someone gets killed by a crazy driver? Duh!

  • bklyn20

    TK Small, I also forgot to note that there is no swing for disabled kids in “Swing Valley” on Pier 6. For those who don’t know, the swings I’m describing (and there may be more than one kind) are in a kind of tilted-up Barc-A-Lounger (sp?) shape in molded plastic. The swing extends to about mid-calf-level to support the swinger’s legs. There is a safety harness to keep the person in. The one we tried out in Madison Square Park (we being my child, who is lucky enough to be able to use a regular swing since she is not physically challenged) holds a person of up to c. 150 lbs, if memory serves.

    Why not put one of these into “Swing Valley?” Non-handicapped kids can use it when it’s not needed by a handicapped kid. Why deny a child in a wheelchair the soaring sensation of flying through the air on a swing? I realize that to some extent Pier 6 is a work in progress, but why not put one in asap?

  • bon scott

    I think walking around my neighborhood “what a beautiful place i live in” and then I read this blog and time and time again it’s causing me to think that my neighbors might be totally soft. Seriously … let’s all be adults. What do you say? Stop coddling your kids and trying to smooth over every rough edge. Look both ways when you cross the street … and just as a general rule of thumb … shut the f!@k up! Stop whining about every goddamn thing. The new park is absolutely gorgeous and a welcome improvement that accesses a place that had before this been dead. If it causes you such issues – maybe just don’t go. You won’t be missed.

  • alanna

    I totally said this last week when I was attempting to cross from pier one park to Doughty and there were kids dashing in front of their parents and barely stopping at the crosswalk “Someone’s going to have to be killed before they put up a light, stop sign or make significant changes here”. Sad…I really hope it doenst come down to that.

  • my2cents

    I think they need to redesign the traffic light setup down there, and it looks like they are in the midst of cleaning up the entry area right now. While I empathize deeply with Mr Small’s predicament, I think this is just a temporary situation while they get the entry area cleaned up. Also, I think some of the walking/running surfaces are not finalized yet.

  • http://deleted Bill

    The rush to cut ribbons overlooked basic issues related to this “park”- you will either get killed getting to it, or in it. This is not a park, and not designed by anyone who knows anything about parks. So, we wait for a death and then I guess they will simply close the thing down. All because we had to make landscaping work for condos and ignore the Master Plan (that had a transporation access component to it) and the recreaional facilities residents wanted (and need still). Thank the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy the Heights Association and Regina Myer. Bon Scott and like minded sots should be more than satisfied with what they have gotten. Good luck Brooklyn!

  • T.K. Small

    In my family complaining/whining was definitely a nonstarter. That is why I would prefer to characterize my remarks as “advocacy” for a generally disenfranchised portion of the population. Likewise, I think it is important to hold people accountable for their questionable decision-making. To work this long on a project and spend borderline obscene money, without better results, is simply ludicrous.

  • T.K. Small

    To paraphrase Gladstone, “Accessibility Delayed Is Accessibility Denied”.

  • nabeguy

    TK. small wonder that you’re on the CB (no joke intended). Thank goodness that we have clear minds such as yours advocating for sensible answers, as well as accountability for them. The only point of yours that I would argue with is the qualification of the money spent as “borderline obscene”…Al Goldstein (a former BH resident) could never have even dreamed of this kind of obscenity.

  • brooklyner

    Look – we all live in NYC and therefore we’ve all had the experience of having to navigate around construction projects before. They are annoying and inconvenient. They cause us to have to use circuitous and sometimes confusing and indirect routes to get to destinations that used to be straightforward. Sometimes they remove some of the safety buffers that we normally take for granted and therefore require a higher state o vigilance. But they are temporary and necessary in order to make important improvements to the public infrastructure – like updating 100 year old water/sewer mains, or adding patch of landscaping to a previously hardscaped area. So most of us suck it up and know deep down inside that it’s worth it. It’s not like this is the only construction project that any of us have ever encountered that has been inconvenient and less safe than the optimal conditions. It’ll be done in a couple of weeks and then we’ll have a wonderful entrance to an excellent public park.
    Bill – no one who has been to pier 1 or pier 6 is buying your bullsh*t about the park just being landscaping for condos anymore. it’s a wonderful public space for all new yorkers, that could probably use a couple of tweaks to make it more handicapped accessible.

  • http://www.alternet.org Sheeple Waker

    It took 40 years to finally do something with acres of our prime waterfront property, and then they do a half-baked job!!!

  • Sue

    T.K.Small-your voice is much needed and welcomed by many and maybe just maybe you’ll be listened to and in the future before a project starts. Thank you!

  • ABC

    The traffic issue needs to be solved.

    The domes were roped off as of yesterday. Another parent told me they’ll be off limits until the shade trees grow in — not sure if it’s true. If it is true, that sounds like years away. I’m sure their landscaping budget was huge. Why not bring in a big tree now?

    I’m all for not coddling kids. But those domes — for example — were hot enough that they could burn the skin off kids’ hands’ in full winter sun. It was such a giant mistake that it’s almost amazing. The black padding at Chapin and Pierrepont Playground have the same issue btw. You have to wear shoes in there in the summer. There’s always a new parent or two who take their kid’s shoes off in the sprinklers and the kids runs to non-wet black padding and end up with 2nd degree burns. That was a poor choice for sure, but it’s got sprinklers and shade. I can see where designers thought they were okay. The big metal domes are a different issue

  • thal

    i totally agree with bon scott.

    I am so confused with all the negativity about construction and the park entrance. Seriously how privileged do you think you are??? We are so blessed that this park was able to get built in one of the worst economies we have ever seen. A $500 million dollar park…Think about that. And your complaing about hot slides or hot domes or the entrance not finished??? Think about how pitiful that is. People need to zip it and stop complaining about all the little things. This park looks great so far and it is going to be unreal when its finished. Not sure what is wrong with some of these parents in the heights. They are complaing about traffic and congestions and noise. YOU BOUGHT A HOME IN NYC AND WANT THE BENEFITS OF LIVING IN OYSTER BAY… Seriously wake up and get a clue. WOW maybe teach your kids to look both ways when they cross or OMG teach them that a slide may be hot and to touch it first to make sure its ok… We are so lucky to have this park here and its only going to get better so stop complaining and shut the f up….

  • Heightsman

    I’m with Bon Scott. Enough already. The pussification of America at its best.

  • Ben

    TK is right, the new park is a failure. and NO Aquatics Center. There is NO large indooor pool in downtown Brooklyn. Manhattan has Asphalt Green, as poorly managed as it this is still a real pool. The Brooklyn YMCA is NOT an Aquatics Center. There is no place to swim in downtown Brooklyn. And The Pope could not get any one into St. Francis College Pool. A big new park and NO indoor pool. this park is a disaster.

  • calmdown

    the promenade, pier 6, cadman plaza, pierppont playground, the brooklyn bridge, probably some of the best places to go in nyc. go there, let them finish the park. relax. makes me not want to read this blog anymore, it’s all about complaining and that’s boring. I feel badly that it’s not wheel chair ready yet. soon it will be.

  • T.K. Small

    calmdown: I think you missed my point that this is larger than simply access to Pier 1. There is a pattern of wasting public resources and ignoring legitimate and foreseeable obligations. Certainly I started my complaint from a disability perspective, but my concerns about safely getting people to BBP are universal.

  • Ben

    Hey Calmdown, there is Frederal legislation, the ADA, Americans With Disabilites Act it should have been in force here from day 1 disabled people should not need to wait until this is corrected until they can use the park and you know that. This ADA is a toothless, meaningless, peice of junk it has never helped me not once in my life of being disabled. the ADA is nothing and BBP illustrates that.

  • calmdown

    I apologize if I offended you, as it was absolutely not directed to you. this was more to the people above who took your complaint and made it about something else. I find this blog becoming more and more about complaints. we are all lucky to live in such a beautiful place with amazing history. It will never be enough for people, and that is what frustrates me when I read the comments as they are usually not constructive with solutions . They are whiny and childish. I agree there should be access and this should have been dealt with from day one. I apologize again.

  • calmdown

    I apologize if I offended you, as it was absolutely not directed to you. I agree there should be access and this should have been dealt with from day one. I apologize again.

  • T.K. Small

    There is no need to apologize as I wasn’t particularly offended. Although you might be annoyed by some of the complaints, I believe that they are generally well founded.

    Just this evening I was explaining to someone that there was perhaps not enough community input into this project, which explains some of the caustic comments coming from the blogosphere. Although I am sure that there were more opportunities to contribute ideas/comments, the one that sticks out in my mind as being predictive of some of the current sentiment, was a public meeting held at Congregation Mount Sinai roughly 2 years ago. The situation was more than a zoo and there was so much noise that (at least for me) it was difficult to participate.

    While I am certain that the various problems will eventually get solved, I maintain that the BBP Conservancy & Development Corporation deserves legitimate criticism. I have spoken repeatedly with different people about access to Fulton Ferry/Empire State Park with no results. Similarly, when the interim facility was installed featuring the “floating pool” there was some issues about access, and some testy e-mails exchanged, in which my concerns were ridiculed by an employee of the Conservancy. Additionally, I have spoken with another very credible community leader, who has reached out to BBP repeatedly about access issues to no avail. So, I hope you understand or at least accept my skepticism.