BBP Condo-Hotel Architect Appears Mindful Of ‘Iconic’ Design Befitting Park Setting

It sounds as if the chief architect for the 200-room hotel and 159-condo project planned by Toll Brothers Inc. and Starwood Capital for Brooklyn Bridge Park is actually mindful of the fact that the controversial build-out is anything but your typical urban multi-use development.

Architect Jonathan Marvel of Rogers Marvel Architects tells the Wall Street Journal that he divides NYC structures into two categories: “fabric buildings” such as warehouses and brownstones that blend into their context because of design that isn’t distinctive; and “iconic buildings” such as signature office towers, bridges and public buildings meant to be singular, that require architects to be creative and ingenious.

Fortunately, because the buildings are to be situated inside Brooklyn Bridge Park, Marvel says he is intent on the latter: “When you’re designing a building in a park, you’re no longer part of the fabric around you, and thrust in the situation of being an icon. The bar is raised super high in terms of being architecture of consequence.”

Early renderings show two long, relatively low-slung residential buildings made of white limestone and glass, placed on two pieces of land near Pier 1 known as Parcel A and Parcel B. The first and larger is 10 stories high. Attached to its north end is the glassy, box-shaped hotel building, which wraps around the back side of the condo portion.

Both structures use what Marvel calls a “step-up” design, meaning the units toward the front rise like a staircase, giving the apartments behind them views of the East River and Manhattan. All steps, as well as some roof and terrace surfaces, are topped with vegetation, making the condo buildings resemble rock formations overgrown with moss.

“We want the park to come into the building,” Marvel tells the WSJ. “The public benefit is that the building is going to blend with the park. That’s a very important part of the design. We didn’t want the building to draw too much attention to itself. We wanted it to be a good neighbor.”

Critics have said the park was built as a favor to real-estate developers, who wanted to use the waterfront green spaces as a fancy front lawn to juice the values of their condominiums. The park’s planners, including its landscape architect, Matthew Urbanski of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, however, respond that the project was designed for the public first. In addition, fees generated by the condo and hotel properties will pay $3.3 million of the park’s annual maintenance cost. Toll Brothers and Starwood will cover these fees initially, and later condo owners will contribute as well.

Read more, including The Wall Street Journal’s critical take on the plan, here.

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  • yikes

    Condos don’t belong inside our public parks. It was wrong when it was proposed in 1984 by Port Authority (and eliminated when the residents organized and created a true park plan, with funds to pay for it without housing, in 2001); it is wrong today. Plenty of ways to pay for this park without private luxury condos, too. The architects know this, and some are embarassed by the very idea of condos inside a public park. And the best architects wouldn’t spew such nonsense of iconic luxury condos inside a public park. Whole thing is a terrible mess curtesy of King Bloomberg and his sheriff of nottingham Regina Myer.

  • A Neighbor

    We should be happy that the architect understands this is not “your typical urban multi-use development”? I’m assuming he’s not dumb.

    Does he have the ability to design an exceptional building? I would like to hear what someone like Paul Goldberger (as v. Starwood or the park amateurs) thinks.

    The WSJ is not on board yet: The article goes on to say, “These touches are nice, but the hotel design is still short of the type of iconic status that Mr. Marvel says is his responsibility.”

  • stuart

    interesting that now even the architects are speaking freely about the new buildings in the park. I thought the new buildings were next to the park.

  • Jorale-man

    Agreed, the Journal still has some clear reservations about this. I will be interested to see how the NY Times or Goldberger regard the project. It may be wishful thinking but I’d like to think the critics can have some positive influence on getting the developers to scale things back a bit.

  • Big Dave

    Whose land is it?

  • stuart

    all the land now belongs to the city. As I understand it, none of it is actually mapped parkland but the areas controlled by the BBPC, the park portion, has restrictions on it that effectively preclude all other uses but public parkland. The parcels set aside for private development obviously do not have those restrictions.
    This is the Bloomberg model, build a public park (High Line, Williamsburg waterfront) and cash in on it by upping the adjacent zoning and encouraging the construction of income producing buildings. Without one, you don’t get the other, so the debate continues.

  • michael

    this is like having robert moses around again. this is public land. hotels & condos do not belong in a park & our local officials should never have agreed to this farce. of courses the architects are going to say soothing comments to a reporter. they’ve been primed by the best PR people around. the people need to stop this idea that the parks must pay for themselves ( or rather this park should pay for itself). the mayor & ms Quinn should find the funding.

  • Mr. Crusty

    The use of limited development (8% of the available land) to pay for the very expensive upkeep and maintenance of a waterfront park built on wooden pilings is a small price to pay.

    This will be a world class park that will be enjoyed by generations of New Yorkers for decades to come. It would not have been possible without the funding the development pieces will bring in no matter how many facile pronouncements that the “mayor should find the funding”. Alternatives were explored and found inadequate.

    I salute those that persevered and fought the ever present naysayers that prevent big projects from getting done in this country. Future NY’s will be thankful as well I imagine.

  • Neighbor Hood

    Tune in 5 minutes for the next thank you ,I salute you, we are grateful to you, there is no way in heaven or earth this park could have been granted to us mere tax paying mortals without your beneficence, may I touch the hem of your garment, etc etc, etc… (Are my speakers off, ’cause I assume these come with music).
    Seriously, if you start from the premise that there is no way to build a waterfront park (a PARK) without it being a front lawn for retail development, well then the debate is finished before it begins.
    And to state as fact that all alternatives to this outdoor mall were seriously examined and exhausted, considering the possible and probable biases in the review process, is also either naive or misleading.

  • Andrew Porter

    Mr. Crusty, this is NOT “built on wooden pilings”. If you walk down to the BBP, you’ll see there are only concrete pilings there. All the wooden pilings have been replaced, at great cost and time spent.

    When the NY harbor was cleaned up, hilariously all the marine borers came back, resulting in thousands of pilings around the harbor being replaced or in some cases encased by plastic and other barriers to the little creatures.

  • Anon

    Dave, the land belongs us, we tax-payers and it was supposed to be a park not a housing development. Why don’t the housing-in-park lobbiests realize that there is less park because of the housing (that will never go away), and advocate for more park? And to Mr. Crusty, – there were and continue to be significant ways to pay for the park without the precedent of private housing inside, yes, inside. its borders (the fiction of “on the edge, not in the park” is no longer a ruse the developers feel they need to uphold)

  • Mr. Crusty

    What park? There was a park where the hotel and condo are going to be built? (and they will be built despite all the whining and kvetching in these parts). I dont remember this park. I remember dilapidated warehouses. I remember rusting piers. I remember privately held property.

    Having “more park” and no development would of course have been fantastic but it would have stuck the taxpayers with a huge “nut” to pay to upkeep and maintain that park. A “nut” that I imagine most taxpayers would be unwilling to pay, especially if they live in the Bronx, or Corona, or Bensunhurst, or Staten Island or Flushing or Morningside Heights or a dozen other neighborhoods which would make very limited use of the park if at all. Yeah to have a huge park with all kinds if wonderful things in your backyard being paid for by other New Yorkers would be just fab.

    But the city has an obligation to ALL the taxpayers in the city not just the self absorbed ones in Brooklyn Heights that believe the park to be their special entitlement.

    So if the city can reduce the tax burden of the citizens of NY AND have a world class park that will stretch from DUMBO to Red Hook by utilizing a small portion of the available land (8%) to provide the necessary sustained funding I think it is a worthwhile trade off. Life is full of compromises. You disagree, I get it. You want it all. How special.

  • allinall

    Andrew Porter – I need to correct you. The piers are supported by about 12,000 timber pilings. Each of these timber pilings has a concrete “pile cap” on top. So what you are seeing when you look at under the piers is the pile cap, which is only a couple of feet long. After that the pile are made of wood. Try going down to Park at low tide and sometimes you can see where the concrete turns to wood. To date, only a small number of piles have been encased in concrete. More than 10,000 of them still need to be encased, so unfortunately this great expense that you mention is still ahead of us, not behind us.

  • Mr. Crusty

    @NeighborHood said, “Seriously, if you start from the premise that there is no way to build a waterfront park (a PARK) without it being a front lawn for retail development, well then the debate is finished before it begins.”

    Well if you start from the premise that the park should just be the back lawn for the residents of BH then the debate is finished as well. Reality in tough economic times means that there has to be compromises and trade offs.

  • michael

    This developement is rather intrusive to the park. Is this waterfrontpark a play thing and payoff for these developer? Not to mention these “sellout” political juggler Joan Millman and David whatever his lastyanme. What is the next lot in the park will be aution off?

  • Rick

    @Mr. Crusty
    Really have to question the logic behind interpreting concern about buildings being constructed in the park as people thinking “the park should just be the back lawn for the residents of BH “.

    The same logic would say people who express concern about Central Park just want it to be the back lawn of the residents of 59th Street. Many of us who may or may not live in Brooklyn Heights have concerns about the proper use of such a unique site.

    A similar lack of logic applies to all the people crying NIMBY.

    Also, I disagree that putting in buildings like the hotel allows us to enjoy “a world class park”. What is world class is the site. The addition of things like a hotel instead makes it a world class resort site. But it diminishes it as a world class park. The addition of buildings like a velodrome or field house diminishes the park toward the level of a community park.

    This is the whole point IMO, this is a park that is greater than the community. The site is a jewel of New York City, and deserves to be treated that way.

  • TMS

    Where will all the children who will move into or be born into the neighborhood go to school? PS8 is overcrowded. With 20 Henry, 30 Henry, Poplar St, the movie theater turning coop, Dumbo families, Dock Street Dumbo and finally Bklyn Bridge Park residences…is anyone thinking about the children? What about parking?

  • BH’er

    Although it is a park, it’s also a business – a business that requires significant money to maintain equipment, structures and the people to do the work

    Tying viable business (and residential) zoning to the immediate area, provides a stronger backbone of revenues to increase the likelihood of a longer term success

    If the park is isolated as just a park, it will be more susceptible to the changing winds of politics and neighbors

    There needs to be a careful balance of retail, commercial and residential zoning, but with active input and influence, we’re much more likely to have a great park that stays great

    We need more support for building out the entire area and less of the advocating for nothing but pure, unsustainable parkland from the BQE to the water

    Add to the list: more transit accessibility – something that will take full time residents and commuters to help create, improve and sustain versus a few occasional visitors and tourists

  • Gerry

    i want private outdoor space a large terrace on the river with doors off of my living room on a higher floor I dont think the units in front get a terrace?

    And a few of those trendy gas fireplaces.

    Is there an indoor pool?

    And a parking facility for the car?I think that it would be hard to get kids to school in the morning from One Brooklyn Bridge Park hard to get everywhere

  • Mr. Crusty

    You ok Gerry? You haven’t been out in the heat too long now have you?

  • David on Middagh

    And August takes down another commenter. Probably tried to cool off in the wading pool and just boiled instead. We should have listened to him.

    Too late now.

  • Julian


    Park will be a “zoo” and front yard for those residents once the buidling is done. It is the typical local politicians sell out to developer’s $.