NYT Takes a Stroll in Brooklyn Bridge Park

The New York Times posted a feature about Brooklyn Bridge Park yesterday. The piece included an interview with the park’s landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh:

RELATED: Read the full history of Brooklyn Bridge Park

NYT: We paused by the sandy beach that now meets the river, where most of a rotting Pier 4 was carried off in a storm years ago. Mr. Van Valkenburgh beamed at the children wading and wriggling their bare toes in the sand. A little sign poking out of the beach grass says, “No swimming or wading.” Nobody pays attention.

It was an octogenarian community activist who inspired this visceral connection to the river. Mary Ellen Murphy, who died at 84 in 2002, took the microphone at the project’s first public meeting, in Brooklyn Heights in 1999. Mr. Van Valkenburgh recalled her saying something like this: “I am retired. I live on a fixed income. I can no longer go to the country for vacations. I want to be able to go down to the East River at night and put my feet in the water and see the reflection of the moon.”

Her quiet words were a revelation.

“It was one of those paradigm shifts in park-making history, where we realized this park wasn’t about scenery,” he said. “The nature of this park is the river.”

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  • Jorale-man

    I have to say, this article pointed out some nice things about the park but as a whole it felt like a puff piece. No mention of the condo controversy or some of the other problems or criticisms the park has faced. I realize it was a first-person “reflection” more than a hard-news story but it still felt like they could have taken a little more balanced approach.

  • Kit

    Agreed. What I especially loved is how all of the accompanying photos were of the picturesque views and not of the construction blocking the view of the Brooklyn anchorage of the bridge.

  • David on Middagh

    In the slide show, photo 11 of 14 hints at the view destruction by the new construction.

  • Strauss

    The East River is classified as a Class I water by NYCDEP. This means that it’s safe for secondary contact while, say, you’re kayaking. There are other classifications for water for primary contact (swimming). I won’t let my 5 year old child go play in that water, and I know of one neighbor who let her child play in the water, child subsequently became quite feverish and ill requiring medical care, and she attributes that illness (who knows for sure?) to the water. So, I find it odd that this article is encouraging folks to let their kids go play in that water.

    Of course, sometimes I’m sure the water is safe, and sometimes it’s quite unsafe after certain storms. But beyond that, can anybody shed some light on this?

  • ujh

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if the East River waterfront, including the piers, between the Brooklyn Bridge and Atlantic Avenue were now covered with buildings instead of this good-for-nothing park? I’m sure the developers could have been forced to leave a room for a walkway with some benches along the periphery of the piers as an amenity for the general public.

  • Solovely

    I find the hotel construction next to the Brooklyn Bridge shockingly high.. any history buff .. or lover of preservation.. has to be sad to see this development. Such a great iconic bridge…

    It’s heartbreaking. When I think about other well historic or architecturally significant bridges in other cities, usually the visual “sweep” of the bridge is left open.. so one can enjoy the full expanse… stretching across the river…

  • Carlotta

    From what I understand from the BBP representative, Park rules state that no one is allowed even to wade in the water – whether or not it’s safe. Mr. Van Valkenburgh may have had good intentions to build a beach with Ms. Murphy’s lovely dream in mind, but she would be mightily disappointed to see a beach in the park and then not be able to touch the water. Ms. Murphy would also not be able to enjoy the concerts or movies because, as I am sure, at her age she would not have been able to sit on a blanket for any extended time, say five minutes. Chairs of any kind, including low beach chairs are prohibited – which prevents any person who would find a blanket without a back impossible to sit on – and that, of course, includes the majority of senior citizens. Why? If it’s because it might damage the grass, why are baby carriages allowed? Note: I love to see the baby’s and children at these concerts, alas I won’t be attending them any longer.

  • Cletus


  • Peter Brooklyn

    A complete puff piece and yet another small step on the way to our ultimate destination: Disney characters bogarting tourists in front of the 1-percent’s waterfront condos. It’s coming. At some point we’ll look back fondly on the initial appearance of the neon kebob cart. “Ahh …those were the days … “

  • Canonchet
  • HicksOnHicks

    Yikes! That water seems pretty nasty most of the time. Glad I’m not tempted to soak my toes.

  • Banet

    The rules against chairs is not to protect the grass but to keep you from blocking the view of those sitting behind you.

  • Joe A

    Whine, whine, whine.

  • Strauss

    Thank you. Very helpful.

  • JaneonOrange

    Saw my first Rat in the Park…Of course I knew they were there, but this one ran across the field within three feet of evening picnickers on Friday….the honeymoon is over…

  • Remsen

    Spent a couple of hours in the park yesterday for the first time in a while (moved to CT 2 yrs ago) and was a little surprised how much the foot traffic has increased through the Heights on the way to the park…almost like Manhattan!

  • bialy

    the water there is quite unsafe, don’t get it in your eyes, ears or mouth or a recent cut or scratch. Especially after a good rain storm. Especially vulnerable would be children or anyone dumb (drunk /stoned) enough to actually try to swim any where off Brooklyn.

  • bialy

    that horrible building right next to the bridge on john street (maybe) is horribly out of place, who would ever live there? as are the condos going up.. They encroach so badly on Furman that kids and walkers and bikers are forced out into the road. All those years of fighting for a park and we got a nasty cramped and tight out of place version of Chelsea Piers with a dose of billionaire condos !

  • bialy

    Correction: I meant swimming anywhere off this part of Brooklyn… Not to mean Coney Island and other areas where it is safely monitored with e-coli tests and have lifeguards.

  • our lady of pineapple st

    Really, Solovely/AKA Lori Schomp (party to the pier 6 lawsuit)?
    “Shockingly high?” Perhaps that’s because you only moved into your $8M townhouse 1 year ago, and did not experience the decrepitude of the Cold Storage Warehouses – the buildings that originally occupied the Pier 1 site? The new building is the same height as the original and does not impact your “history buff” views any more than they did

  • Lady in the Heights

    You can use one of those seats that just has a back so you can sit up and not block anyone’s view. I love that they don’t allow chairs. It makes the experience of going to the movies so easy. You don’t have to camp out hours in advance to get a square on the grass like at Bryant Park.

  • MiniCooper

    This ‘park’ means the end of Brooklyn Heights as we who have lived here a long time know it. I’ve already noticed an increase in noisy pedestrians late at night and tossed-on-the sidewalk trash on Hicks Street.

  • ltap917

    I totally agree. The park seems more like Chelsea Piers. The quiet tree lined cobble stoned streets of Brooklyn Heights of yesteryear is gone.