A tour of the Brooklyn Strand
October 27, 2015
We’ve devoted a lot of time on this blog to covering the Brooklyn Strand, a 40-acre stretch of disconnected parks, plazas, and greenways stretching between Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Bridge Park that has the potential to become the great promenade and gateway to Brooklyn.
Helping to lead this charge on behalf of many community partners including the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is WXY, an award-winning design studio specializing in urban planning and architectural solutions, particularly in challenging contexts. One afternoon spent walking through the Brooklyn Strand reveals just how challenging this particular context is.
“The goal is to detangle the knot created by the Manhattan Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the BQE,” says Paul van der Grient, WXY’s Architectural Designer for the project.
Last Sunday, van der Grient and Claire Weisz, WXY’s Founding Principal, led three sold-out walking tours of the Brooklyn Strand. About a dozen people attended each session, from all walks of life and various geographies—urban enthusiasts, local residents, tourists, press. The goal of the tour was to introduce the concepts for the Brooklyn Strand, but it had the ancillary effect of getting attendees to think of these disjointed spaces as one unified whole.
The operating metaphor was sculpture—by undoing some of the misguided urban planning of the past and filling in the gaps, the Brooklyn Strand wouldn’t be so much created as revealed, in the same way that a sculptor reveals a subject in a block of granite.
“This is a little bit of an archaeology project,” Weisz said. “You have to use your imagination a bit.”
The tour started at Cadman Plaza Park, just north of the long-closed Brooklyn War Memorial, which sits like an obstacle in the middle of the park. WXY proposes building connecting pedestrian and bike pathways to link the north and south sides of the plaza, while reopening the Memorial and overhauling its roof to become a pedestrian-friendly topside deck.
The tour continued through the Brooklyn Bridge stair and overpass—where ideas include retail and food outlets—to the cloverleaf created by the Brooklyn Bridge off-ramp and the BQE. The plan there is to link Anchorage Plaza, Clumber Corner, and other pockets of green space by building pedestrian connections, curtailing Old Fulton Street crossings, and—most notably—installing a large open-air market called Anchorage Market.
The tour wound its way east of the Flatbush Avenue Extension, touching on the three Bridge Parks, Trinity Park, and ending at the Manhattan Bridge Plaza, a thin wedge of a park that happens to be the only pedestrian entrance to the Manhattan Bridge.
It was a blustery, cold day, and although the vision laid out by the WXY team was intoxicating, they took pains to note that it’s a long-term process. The comprehensive plan was first presented in the spring at a public stakeholder meeting held in partnership with Community Board 2; the suggestions are preliminary, and will require thorough review and due diligence.
“We are still in early stages and as of yet there are no firm implementation dates,” said van der Grient. “But we are continuing to work closely with city agencies and the Office of the Mayor to keep momentum and move toward actionable plans.”
Meanwhile, Phase 2 of the community planning process, which is looking at areas under and along the BQE from the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges to Commodore Barry Park, is now underway, with a series of public workshops going on this month.
Interested in attending the next workshop, taking place tomorrow, October 28th? Click here for more details and to RSVP.