Soon to Be Brooklyn Parkland

January 3, 2009 at 1:50 am Leave a comment

Standing at the corner of Brooklyn’s Pier 1, where red double-decker tourist buses make a left turn from Old Fulton Street down Furman Street and ease their way along the Brooklyn waterfront, it is hard to believe that a large section of the sprawling Brooklyn Bridge Park, planned for the mostly deserted site from Pier 1 to Pier 6, will be completed there within a year.

But that is the plan. Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, which controls the project, said this week that six acres of the 9.5-acre pier are scheduled to be finished by the end of 2009, with the remaining land on the pier done a short time after that. The schedule also calls for the completion of seven acres at the other end of the park, on Pier 6, in the same period, Ms. Myer said.

Pier 1, in an area that already draws flocks of tourists to the Fulton Ferry Landing, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria and the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, is to feature a riverfront promenade and a 25-foot hill looking out onto New York Harbor. At the moment, it looks mostly like a parking lot, partly covered in pavement that construction workers on the site said will soon have to be torn up.

The site, along with a section of Pier 6, at the foot of Atlantic Avenue, was more interesting to look at several weeks ago, when archaeologists working for the development corporation were busy excavating and studying old building foundations to document the area’s history. In particular, they were focused on the remains of the Jewell Milling Company, by the corner of Old Fulton and Furman, and the old South Ferry terminal, with service to Manhattan.

That work, which was first reported in the Brooklyn Paper, is the subject of the Dispatches feature in this weekend’s City section. Working in cold December winds, the archaeologists unearthed old bottles, pottery shards and bricks that were buried one-and-a-half to eight feet down. Then they filled the holes back in, in the days before Christmas, to protect their contents from the weather.

“All of the professionals were very eager to close everything up,” Ms. Myer said, “and they were absolutely correct, because there would have been a lot of flooding and problems.”

There was plenty for the archaeologists to see on the site; Alyssa Loorya, one of the archaeologists, said that if you could peel back a foot and a half of dirt from the top of the whole property, you would find the foundations of all of the buildings that stood there in the 19th century more or less intact.

The buried foundations are not going anywhere; they can be unearthed again for further research if necessary. Not that such re-exploration would be Ms. Myer’s preference. “Because we’re making such a large investment in the park above it, I’m not going to say that’s going to be a point of advocacy for me,” she said. “But yes, it could be done.”

Throughout the work, Ms. Loorya said, curious tourists and neighbors would peek through the fence and ask what was going on. She said other parts of the park site could prove rich in history, too. Most tantalizing, there are reports that a Revolutionary War-era British battleship was sunk, intact, near the foot of Joralemon Street and used for landfill.

That spot, next to the One Brooklyn Bridge Park condominium building (formerly known as 360 Furman Street, a Jehovah’s Witnesses shipping center), is part of a different phase of the park construction, and it is unclear when work there will begin.

Ms. Myer said the park development corporation expected to have two-thirds of the 85-acre park completed within five years, including Pier 5 and the “upland” areas next to all six piers on the site. Pier 4 is to remain relatively untouched, and there is no money in the budget for Piers 2 and 3 and part of Pier 6, she said.

Bloomberg.com reported in November that two-thirds of the 449-unit luxury building at One Brooklyn Bridge Park remained unsold, a disappointing turn of events for the building’s owners, the developer Robert Levine and a fund run by the American International Group Inc.’s real estate unit.

Ms. Myer said the park development corporation remained committed to a self-financing model for the park — with money from real estate development around the edges of the site paying for future park maintenance and operations — but she said One Brooklyn Bridge Park’s troubles should not directly affect the construction, which is paid for out of a different revenue stream.

Despite the slow condo market, she added, “Happily, One Brooklyn Bridge Park is paying its taxes and its rent to us.”

By Jake Mooney
City Room, New York Times

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Entry filed under: Brooklyn, Go Coastal. Tags: , , , .

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