By Henrik Krogius, Editor
Brooklyn Heights Press & Cobble Hill News
Brooklyn Bridge Park is really coming along. On my last tour, in early December 2011, the stretch between the then largely completed Pier 1 section and the partly completed Pier 6 section was mostly clear except for the ‘spiral pool’ at Pier 2 and a temporary nursery behind Pier 3 for sapling tress yet to be planted, plus some rocks awaiting disposition.
This time, much activity was happening on and beside Pier 5 and on Pier 2, and between Piers 1 and 2 a small pool was already full of swimmers, while a hill was being shaped for the park terminus of a footbridge from Columbia Heights through Squibb Playground. “The city just gave us $21 million to complete Pier 6,” was the cheery greeting of Teresa Gonzalez, the assistant to park president Regina Myer, when I arrived at 334 Furman Street for the tour. As we were joined by Ms. Myer, I remarked on the busy sounds coming from the park: “By 7 a.m. I hear rumbling rocks.”
Regina Myer smiled. “They’re doing some re-rumbling,” she said.” Some of the rocks were rumbled into the wrong places originally.”
Allowing for that small glitch, the affable and relaxed woman in charge of this momentous construction job was clearly enthusiastic about the progress being made. She was especially eager to show me the work at Pier 5, on whose 5 acres three synthetic-turf playing fields are about to be created, and next to which a ‘picnic peninsula’ is nearing completion. A transparent wall will surround the playing fields as protection from the wind.
The concrete ‘peninsula’ runs parallel to the park’s lengthwise direction, surrounded on three sides by water and salt marsh. It can be entered from next to the pier and by a small footbridge, shortly to be built, near its outer end. It will have tables, benches, barbecues— and many umbrellas as protection against the strong waterfront sun.
Remarkably undaunted as she seems by a construction project that will ultimately have cost upward of a half a billion dollars, Ms. Myer is less at home with small mechanical challenges. Not being so at home with those myself, I felt empathy on seeing that her command of the small electric runabouts used by park workers and officers had not improved since our tour last year. She couldn’t get a windshield wiper turned off (it was a bright sunny day) and had to get help when she thought the battery had died (it hadn’t), but once those problems had been resolved she maneuvered the vehicle easily through many tight passages and past backhoes and bulldozers. She remarked that she was glad to make the tour, as she hadn’t made so close an inspection of the park’s progress recently.
We drove out on Pier 2, similar in expanse to Pier 5, and she was pleased to see the preparations for shoring up the pier’s support pilings. That pier still has the skeletal structure of its former shed, and five basketball courts in addition to adult exercise equipment will exist there under partial cover by translucent panels. I was struck by the waterfront promenade at the pier’s outer end — it made me feel I was in the middle of the East River.
“I want to see this pier completed before Bloomberg leaves office,” Ms. Myer said in reference to the mayor’s term ending at the close of next year. She spoke of the great support the park has received from the Bloomberg administration.
Back on the upland, we passed the new “pop up” pool and a line of people waiting their turn to get in. Sixty people at a time are allowed into the pool. Then we came to where, behind protective fencing adorned with photos of parkgoers’ faces, landscaping work was going on to form a hill at the place where pedestrians will arrive via the Squibb Playground bridge.
“Why don’t you jump on that bench to get a better shot,” Ms. Myer suggested. My legs and balance don’t allow for jumping on benches any more, so she volunteered to use my camera and took the picture herself from atop the bench of a worker grading the hill.
Joggers, walkers and bicyclists were passing us. “I’m so glad we pushed for the greenway,” Ms. Myer said. “People don’t just come to the park to look at the water. It was important to have a north-south traverse along the park because people like to move along it.”
Outside the site of the hotel and condominiums to be built by Toll Brothers and Starwood, Ms. Myer noted that the landscaping around that project is being designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, designers of the park itself, so that those grounds will be consistent with the rest of the park. She also expressed confidence in the hotel’s designers, Rogers Marvel Architects.
Designs for the hotel are yet to be released, and we still await the design of the Fieldhouse, or velodrome, planned between Piers 4 and 5. In regard to the latter Ms. Myer deplored the criticism, and its tone, expressed in last week’s Heights Press and before the Citizens Advisory Council by Peter Flemming. He questioned the size, the uses and the parking problems arising from the Fieldhouse, as well as the very idea of a privately operated sports facility. Ms. Myer said all his concerns would be addressed, and she pointed out that the gift of the $40-million Fieldhouse answered a need for an indoor facility that had been voiced by many, but for which there had been no budget.