By Raanan Geberer
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to redo 21 acres of underused green space from Borough Hall to Brooklyn Bridge Park into a “spiffy linear park,” reported on by Brooklyn Daily Eagle Real Estate Editor Lore Croghan, is a continuation of a series of proposals put forth by the Brooklyn Tech Triangle Coalition last year.
De Blasio’s terminology for this stretch of green space, Brooklyn Strand, was also used by Tucker Reed, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, in a speech before the coalition last June that this writer covered.
Indeed, as Croghan has reported, a spokesman for de Blasio told the Eagle, “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.”
No matter who takes credit for this development, it’s sorely needed. These parks, while fairly well maintained, are often overlooked or bypassed even by those who live or work nearby.
The Strand, slated to be made over, would include Columbus Park (adjacent to Borough Hall), Cadman Plaza Park (to its north, containing the War Memorial), Walt Whitman Park (on the other side of Cadman Plaza East, including the Office of Emergency Management building), the Korean Veterans Plaza and several empty municipal lots and lawns.
Columbus Park draws good-sized crowds on those days when the Greenmarket comes to town; Cadman Plaza Park, near the site of the old Eagle building, is sometimes used by young soccer and touch football players and joggers. As for the War Memorial itself, virtually unused and inaccessible for at least 15 years, it’s a monument to bureaucratic inaction, a blight on Downtown Brooklyn.
Reed, in his speech last year, went into detail about several proposals for this stretch of green. Among the proposals that he mentioned at the time were a café in the rear of the War Memorial, a museum in the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, better lighting and more. There was an art installation series in the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, known as Art in the Anchorage, from 1983 to 2001; its closing may have been caused by 9/11.
In his June 2013 speech, Reed made it clear that a revamped park belt stretching through the heart of Downtown would serve as an amenity to the new employees that the Tech Triangle’s firms are sure to attract. These energetic young people want things to do in the neighborhood, both day and night – they don’t want to just work in a sedentary office, then go home, pop a frozen dinner into the microwave and watch “Law and Order.”
Finally, a word about the War Memorial, which is lined with plaques bearing the names of World War II veterans from Brooklyn who died in battle. Former Borough President Howard Golden sought to rehabilitate it and open it as a permanent exhibit, but the effort was reportedly stymied by the lack of funds to make the building ADA-compliant.
Two years ago, there were rumors that some high-ranking Parks Department employees, possibly working on their own, were building exhibits honoring veterans inside the building. Parks spokespersons refused to comment or to let us into the building, but this writer managed to peek in, and some displays indeed had been installed. But so far, nothing has been made available to the public.
Maybe it’s time for a new push. Borough President Adams, are you listening?