Brooklyn Bridge Park will receive the American Planning Association’s 2014 National Planning Excellence Award for Urban Design for transforming 1.3 miles of Brooklyn’s formerly inaccessible waterfront into a scenic, multi-use public space.
The Urban Design award honors efforts to create a sense of place, whether a street, public space, neighborhood or campus effort.
The site of Brooklyn Bridge Park was once part of a thriving industrial waterfront. In the 1950s, however, shipping in New York City began a steady decline, while the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway created an approximately 60-foot-high barrier that isolated the East River waterfront from the community and restricted waterfront access. The Port Authority ceased cargo operations in 1984.
In 2002, Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg dedicated state and city funding providing for the park’s construction and for the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, which eventually became the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation.
Designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., the park was planned with several goals guiding its development, including returning the waterfront to public use, creating a multi-use civic space and reconnecting with adjacent neighborhoods.
Among the park’s many features are three activated piers (Pier 1, Pier 5 and Pier 6); Jane’s Carousel, a historic and beautifully restored carousel built in 1922; boat ramps, a parkwide greenway, a pebble beach, fishing stations, sand volleyball courts, waterfront promenades, a bicycle path, playgrounds, sports fields and more.
“Brooklyn Bridge Park has had an undoubtedly transformative effect on the neighborhoods of Brooklyn,” said Ann C. Bagley, jury chair for the 2014 American Planning Awards. “The park has reconnected New Yorkers with the charming East River waterfront, affording visitors a true ‘sense of place.’”
“Since 2009, we have watched a stretch of abandoned piers and uplands below Brooklyn Heights become a world-class park,” said Alexandra Bowie, president of the Brooklyn Heights Association. “Visitors can now walk a shade-dappled path through native plants, picnic on a grass lawn with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge, and take in a performance or lecture sitting on the granite steps facing lower Manhattan.”
Brooklyn Bridge Park will receive the award at APA’s National Planning Conference in Atlanta during a special luncheon on Tuesday, April 29.