During the Labor Day weekend, I met some friends from Brooklyn and Manhattan at the Park Plaza Diner, followed by a small gathering in Cadman Plaza Park.
This is the park that more or less provides an eastern boundary to Brooklyn Heights above Montague Street. The significant thing is that it serves as a convenient meeting place when people from Brooklyn meet others from Manhattan.
The park is convenient to both the A/C train, which has a station across the street, and the 2/3 train, which has a station a few blocks away at the St. George Hotel. Connected to it on the south is Columbus Park, containing two of most important civic buildings in the borough – Borough Hall and the state Supreme Court building. The northern part is often traversed by tourists and others who walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
In a very real way, Cadman Plaza Park is the gateway to Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn, especially for those who come here from elsewhere. It should be promoted this way.
Currently, the park attracts kids who play soccer and touch football; legal professionals, who use the federal courthouse during the week; and the occasional neighborhood resident who uses the jogging/running paths. Its plantings, lawns and trees are extremely attractive. To the south, Columbus Park hosts a very popular Greenmarket, one of the best I’ve seen in the entire city.
Still, there is so much more that could be done with Cadman Plaza Park. There are people who live or work within a block or two of the park who hardly ever go near it.
To begin with, the city could put up signs pointing to the park within two or three blocks.
The Parks Department could also install a plaza with tables either directly north or directly south of the War Memorial Building. This would attract more of the lunchtime crowd—the benches that currently exist are fine, but are impractical for groups of people who want to talk each other.
Other small parks throughout the city have vendors – look at Union Square Park. Why not Cadman Plaza Park? I realize that Brooklyn Heights is a quiet residential neighborhood but we’re not talking about a full-service restaurant here. How about, perhaps, an ice cream vendor? Or someone selling cold drinks to serve those who have just walked across the bridge.
Just as the Greenmarket helps to make Columbus Park a destination, we could also have an attraction that will make Cadman Plaza Park into a destination of its own. Why not a small plant and flower market? Many people in the neighboring brownstone communities have back yards and have to buy plants somewhere. It might as well be here.
One of the reasons why Cadman Plaza Park is seemingly under-publicized and underused might be the fact that two better-known parks – the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park – are within walking distance. Both of them offer spectacular views that Cadman Plaza Park doesn’t have. Brooklyn Bridge Park’s facilities are also much more extensive.
However, in a borough with limited park space, the more parks, the better. Brooklyn Heights and Downtown aren’t fortunate enough to be near a big park like Central Park or Prospect Park. Several small parks in the area, each one with a different identity, can only add to the neighborhood’s diversity.
In sum, let’s raise Cadman Plaza Park’s profile.
Raanan Geberer, a freelance writer, recently retired as Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He had been Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Bulletin until 1996, when the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was revived and merged with the Bulletin.