NEW B’KLYN PARK A HIT

July 28, 2008 at 3:38 pm 1 comment

A tiny taste of one of the state’s most highly contested projects — Brooklyn Bridge Park — has quietly become one of New York City’s biggest summer attractions.

Since popping up with little fanfare June 26 in Brooklyn Heights on a sliver of the future waterfront park’s construction site, a temporary playground at the edge of Pier 1 is giving the public its first real sense of what the long-delayed development will bring to the Big Apple.

And so far it’s been rave reviews — especially from out-of-towners who stumbled on the 26,000-square-foot chic play space for both children and adults while walking over the landmark bridge from Manhattan in search of the best views of artist Olafur Eliasson’s four “New York City Waterfalls.”

But critics of the long-delayed park project are still questioning why it took the city and state so long to offer a first glimpse of the breathtaking waterfront access the planned 85-acre park will bring.

The green space has been in the works for more than 20 years, and its price tag is now expected to exceed at least $350 million to $400 million — well above a $150 million budget set by the Pataki administration in 2002.

Even the development’s biggest critics agree that the project only gathered steam in November after Regina Meyer, a longtime Brooklyn planning director, was appointed president of the state-city Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corp.

She replaced Wendy Leventer, a Pataki administration holdover who was fired in March 2007 after the Post reported the agency at that time had spent $16.5 million over the previous five years with little to show expect mounting legal fees and continuously changing project renderings.

But this past March, construction kicked off despite there only being enough government funding to build about two-thirds of the park. Including $6.1 million recently donated by the City Council and Borough President Marty Markowitz’s office, the project’s current budget now totals $231.1 million.

Meyer said she felt it was important to finally get the project going and then lobby to fill the remaining budget shortfall at a later date.

Since March, the sheds at Piers 1 and 6 have been razed, along with a few nearby buildings, to make way for the park, while the demolition of Pier 5’s shed and the Purchase Building under the Brooklyn Bridge is nearly complete.

Meyer’s office also decided to join forces with the nonprofit Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy to bring the temporary playground to Pier 1 this summer. The first segments of the actual park are expected to open at Piers 1 and 6 in late 2009.

“We’re thrilled to be giving the public a glimpse of what this beautiful park will look like,” Meyer said.

By RICH CALDER

New York Post

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