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:
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.”