New markers bring to life history of Brooklyn waterfront

Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) and Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP) have partnered to create a marker and interpretative signage project that reveals the history of the Brooklyn waterfront and highlights the ecological and sustainable features of the park. The markers and signs were unveiled at a ceremony on Wednesday at BBP’s Pier 1, located at the corner of Old Fulton Street and Furman Street in Brooklyn. BBP President Regina Myer and BHS President Deborah Schwartz were joined by local elected officials, community members and BBP and BHS board members.

Over generations, the area that is today Brooklyn Bridge Park has been a site of bustling commerce, a transportation terminal, an entry point for immigrants, an artistic and activist center, and finally, a world-class park visited by millions of tourists and New Yorkers every year. To tell the stories of its history and elucidate its unique design, signs and markers (“footnotes”) embedded in the ground have been installed in various locations throughout the park from Pier 1 to Pier 6. Each sign and footnote references a little-known historical fact tied to the specific location, tells the story of the ecology present, or points out sustainable features used to build the beloved park.

“Since its opening in 2010, Brooklyn Bridge Park has become a destination for park goers seeking recreation, relaxation, a fantastic view or those looking to enjoy any one of the great programs presented in the park throughout the year,” said Regina Myer, President of Brooklyn Bridge Park. “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Brooklyn Historical Society to add yet another way for visitors to enjoy the park. This park is built on a legacy of creativity, activism and diversity and what better way to pay homage to this legacy than to share it with park visitors. The signs, footnotes and website will add a layer of information for visitors which will further enrich their experience of the park.”

“The Brooklyn waterfront presents a rich and diverse history that is often not immediately thought about when visitors come to take in the spectacular New York skyline,” said Deborah Schwartz, President of Brooklyn Historical Society. “From the infamous Bohemian community in Brooklyn Heights to the hard-working immigrant communities that emerged from the harbor to settle along Atlantic Avenue, the history of the Brooklyn waterfront is a collection of multifaceted, multicultural stories that helped shape the borough as we know it today.”

Further history of the area will be told when additional signage is installed during a second phase of the project in the northern portion of the park. Installation of these signs and markers will begin once construction is completed on the Empire Stores, Tobacco Warehouse and the Main Street and John Street sections of the park in 2015. The project was led by staff at both BHS and BBP, with special assistance from noted New York Historian, Steven H. Jaffe.

To further enhance the visitor experience, an accompanying website — brooklynwaterfronthistory.org — delves deeper into the history, ecology and sustainability of the park, and is meant to serve as a walking companion for mobile device users. Visitors will be able to access additional information on specific points of interest, explore thematic tours and examine BHS’s rich historical documents on mobile devices, all while walking through the park. The website can also be accessed at home or in the classroom as an additional research tool for students and teachers. The signs were designed by Open, the award-winning graphic design studio that also created BBP’s graphic identity. The website was designed by TancilTown Media, a Brooklyn-based web design firm that has created websites for the Tenement Museum and the Museum at Eldridge Street.