De Blasio announces funding for 'Brooklyn Strand,' new parks, street overhauls
By Lore Croghan, with special reporting from Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bring on the cash and let's get this party started!
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a package of investments for Downtown Brooklyn Wednesday to stimulate neighborhood economic development — with plans to remake “Brooklyn Strand,” which is 21 acres of underused green space from Borough Hall to Brooklyn Bridge Park, into a spiffy linear park, open ground floors to retail uses in 1.4 million square feet of city-owned buildings and make key streets less dangerous for drivers and pedestrians.
Also, the city will invest in three new parks, create a consortium of 11 neighborhood colleges to prep students for Brooklyn Tech Triangle jobs and form or expand a Business Improvement District for the Cultural District anchored by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
“This is one of the city's great success stories, and we have an incredible opportunity to take these stunning communities, parks and institutions and knit them together,” the mayor said in a release his office issued.
“The investments we are making will help Downtown Brooklyn continue its rise, generate good jobs and make this a more dynamic neighborhood to live and work.”
Some of the plans de Blasio's committing to were formulated by the Bloomberg Administration and have been in the works for years, while others are new.
“In some cases, as it regards the existing projects, we're funding them for the first time in our budget with our capital plan, so that's our stamp on it,” a spokesman for the Mayor told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Major rezoning done a decade ago brought a neighborhood construction boom that slowed sharply during recession — but is going full tilt again. Much of the development has been in the form of residential towers such as 388 Bridge St., which is now the tallest building in the borough.
A resulting influx of new residents has brought calls for new public school construction — which the mayor's plans don't address. He was also silent on the issue of curtailed hospital services because of the closing of Long Island College Hospital (LICH).
The mayor's spokesman told the Eagle that Wednesday's announcement was “just a progress report on some big things we've put in the pipeline” and not “the summation of everything we plan to do in Downtown Brooklyn or a needs assessment for the district.”
In the past decade, city investment has attracted more than $4 billion in private investment and brought the creation of 8 million square feet of new real estate, including 5,000 new apartments, more than 1,000 hotel rooms and nearly 900,000 square feet of commercial space, said Downtown Brooklyn Partnership president Tucker Reed.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams applauded de Blasio's plan, which he said will unlock the neighborhood's full potential.
“Downtown Brooklyn has become a destination in every sense of the word, a place that people near and far seek out to live, work and play,” Adams said.
“This transformation was made possible by the investment our city has put into this neighborhood, and once again they are stepping up to the plate, this time under the sound leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio.”
Here's the skinny on park initiatives:
* The Brooklyn Strand makeover will transform a belt of parks and plazas including sleepy Cadman Plaza Park into a major pedestrian thoroughfare to Brooklyn Bridge and the waterfront.
Walt Whitman Park, the Korean Veterans Plaza, Columbus Park and empty municipal lots and lawns are also part of the Brooklyn Strand.
* Fox Square, at Flatbush Avenue and Fulton Street, will see construction start this summer. The $1.4 million project entails new paving, landscaping, street furniture, lighting and electrical infrastructure. Completion is expected early next year.
* Willoughby Square, on Willoughby Street between Duffield and Gold streets, has seen environmental remediation of buildings on the site in recent weeks. The buildings will be demolished to create a new one-acre park, with completion expected by the end of 2016.
* BAM Park, on Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue, has been closed for decades. The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is working with the state to secure funding for a major overhaul. The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Economic Development Corp. and the Parks Department are working together on the facelift.
This is what's up with street overhauls:
* Jay Street is being scrutinized by local stakeholders with an eye to being made more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. The city and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership are in charge of this planning process.
* Tillary and Adams streets are slated for a multimillion-dollar capital reconstruction project designed by the city Department of Transportation and Department of Design and Construction. Construction is expected to start next year to relocate and rebuild the medians, widen the sidewalks and construct new curb extensions. The rehab will improve this pedestrian and bike access point to the Brooklyn Bridge.
* Willoughby and Pearl streets will be getting improvements. The Department of Transportation has started planning and conceptual design that will “explore non-traditional roadway design that recognizes and accommodates the heavy use of the area by pedestrians and the local nature of vehicular traffic, which includes deliveries and passenger drop-offs,” according to the release from the Office of the Mayor.