Is the sloooowly buregoning Brooklyn Bridge Park designed to encourage the interaction of those who visit the waterfront oasis—or is it little more than a handsome front lawn for wealthy homeowners, alienated from the surrounding community and lacking those things that make urban public spaces dynamic? That’s the question posed in a Wall Street Journal story Monday, titled “Conflict In Park Plans.”
The piece leads a more or less academic discussion over aesthetic disagreements between developers of the half-completed park’s future. Portions of Pier 1 and Pier 6 opened in 2010, with a new pier and footbridge slated for the latter part of 2012—while a majority remains on the drawing board.
The WSJ explains, “On one side is Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the firm designing the park’s outdoor spaces, including man-made wetland areas, artificial hillsides and meadows and pathways lined with non-native vegetation that resembles beach grass.” He comments in the article: “We’ve created a calm foreground that allows you to appreciate the sublime beauty of the industrial urban setting.”
An opposing view comes from non-profit Project of Public Spaces (PPS), whose William H. Whyte believes that public spaces should “be designed to encourage the social interactions of the people who use them, rather than for their aesthetic appeal.” His view is that the design of BBP overrides the everyday needs of city dwellers.
The story goes on to describe the playground at Pier 6 as “better looking than for playing.” PPS President Fred Kent adds that “a better park” would allow for multiple uses woven together in a simple welcoming space. “Elderly people would be able to sit on a bench, eat a sandwich and watch the children play, while young couples stroll by on the Promenade, waiting for the sunset over the park’s breathtaking view of New York Harbor.” He calls BBP “one of the deadest waterfronts ever designed.”
The WSJ concludes that on some counts Kent is right, “but in other ways, Brooklyn Bridge Park succeeds magnificently at being a space people want to make their own. Pier 1 is an assemblage of placid meadows and grassy, sloping grades that make the perfect setting for picnicking and taking in the view.”
The full Wall Street Journal article is here. Note that it requires subscriber log-in.