Field Trip to Brooklyn Bridge Park

On July 15, 2010, the staff of WMF's New York headquarters had the opportunity to tour Brooklyn Bridge Park, an 85-acre park designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates that is currently under construction along the Brooklyn waterfront. Our hosts for the afternoon were Ellen Ryan, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, and Paul Seck, Senior Associate at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and the project manager for Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Our tour began with a presentation of an enormous scale model crafted by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (comments about the model's extent and level of detail were responded to with jokes about intern labor). Using this model Paul explained the philosophy underlying the landscape architects' design, which generously provides for many outdoor activities, including direct access to the water for kayaking. A carefully engineered ridge will shield the shaded, sinuous pathways from the noise of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to the east. But in addition to the design, we also had to marvel at the logistical jigsaw puzzle that construction of a new urban park amounts to – according to Paul, all but one of the agencies and organizations contacted in the design phase had some input for the project.

The sun was blazing, but we were all eager to walk the length of the park, some parts of which are already open to the public. The large playground that occupies Pier 6 opened in June, and last Thursday it was teeming with children frolicking in the “Water Lab.” Some of us expressed the desire to try out the Tarzan ropes of “Swing Valley,” but Ellen promptly directed our attention to the nearby sign reading “Ages 2-12.”

Paul showed us benches fabricated for the park out of dense, old-growth Longleaf Pine, a threatened species that used to be prevalent from southeastern Virginia to eastern Texas. The wood was salvaged for the project from the former National Cold Storage buildings, which used to occupy a site close to the northern end of the park, where we headed next.

At its northern end Brooklyn Bridge Park connects to the Empire – Fulton Ferry State Park, where a restored 1922 carousel is to be housed in a pavilion designed by Jean Nouvel. The park offers many different views across the water along its length. A great view is to be had from the “Granite Prospect,” a staircase built out of old slabs of granite salvaged during the reconstruction of the Roosevelt Island Bridge, where we stopped for the above picture and the end of our tour.