New entrance, ramp, lift and more
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The campaign to restore the shamefully crumbling Brooklyn War Memorial will inch another step forward on Monday, March 20, when Michelle Langley, an architect with the city’s Parks Department, will present a design for the first phase of renovations at a Community Board 2 committee meeting.
The Parks and Recreations Committee meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at The Brooklyn Hospital Center’s first floor dining room, 121 DeKalb Ave. at St. Felix Street in Fort Greene.
To the distress of veterans and area leaders, the memorial has been closed for 25 years. Located in Cadman Plaza Park in Downtown Brooklyn, the imposing structure was built as a tribute to the more than 300,000 Brooklynites who served in WWII.
Hidden inside, out of sight of the public, are displayed roughly 11,500 names of Brooklyn service members who died during the war, along with a collection of military history.
The memorial is estimated to need more than $15 million in repairs and upgrades. The goals of Phase 1 include reconstructing portions of the West Plaza leading up to the building’s entrance, and designing an ADA-compliant ramp and west entrance door assembly. Interior phase 1 work includes designing an ADA-compliant lift from the first floor to the basement and providing an FDNY and NYC Buildings Department-compliant fire-alarm system. The Parks Department also would be responsible for obtaining a certificate of occupancy.
Restoration efforts have been stymied over the decades by shifting priorities and elusive funding.
Former Borough President Howard Golden, long an advocate for the memorial, obtained $10.5 million more than 15 years ago for renovations. The money, however, was diverted to other projects by the city administration after Golden left office.
Michael Armstrong, who had served as Golden’s Director of Public Affairs, told the Eagle at a Memorial Day event in 2015, “It’s going to take $10, $12, $15 million dollars to do what everybody would like to see happen.”
Local WWII veteran brothers Roy and Jack Vanasco have pushed to restore the memorial for years. Roy Vanasco told Brooklyn Eagle reporter Raanan Geberer in 2012 that when he was chairman of Community Board 2 in 1987, the board signed an agreement with the Parks Department allocating $540,000 for an elevator and other improvements.
“The money disappeared and was used elsewhere in the system," he said.
BP Adams kickstarts fundraising
In July 2015, Borough President Eric Adams allocated $1 million toward a handicap access ramp “to finally get this war memorial open,” he said.
The phase1 budget is roughly $4 million, including the funds from BP Adams along with money provided by Councilmember Stephen Levin and the General Services Administration.
The memorial’s restoration is also a central project of the Cadman Plaza Conservancy. Conservancy President Toba Potosky told the Eagle in 2015 that the borough president’s million dollar grant was “an important first step.” The Conservancy has started a GoFundMe campaign, which has so far raised more than $7,000.
The Parks Department appears to have long-term plans in the works for the memorial. They have advertised for a Brooklyn War Memorial Historical Research Intern, who will be responsible for conducting historical research, providing information for displays and exhibits, and assisting with special event ceremonies such as ribbon-cutting and ground-breaking events.
The memorial, dedicated in 1951, was designed by Stuart Constable, Gilmore D. Clarke and W. Earle Andrews, working with the architectural firm of Eggers and Higgins. The designers were chosen in a competition sponsored by the Brooklyn Eagle.
Sculptor Charles Keck designed the exterior’s two massive figures — a male warrior on the left and a female with a child to the right.