When visitors pass through the Jay Street entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge Park for the first official time on Saturday, they’ll be accessing a stretch of the waterfront park that has never been open to pedestrians before.
Construction on the 1.3 mile park, which stretches from Pier 6 in the south along the water north to Jay Street, started about a year a half ago.
“We just can’t wait to invite people here. That’s part of the magic, we’ve been building this for the past seven years,” said Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, who gave Metro a private tour on Wednesday. “We’re welcoming New Yorkers back to the waterfront, in certain cases places they’ve never had the opportunity to access, but in other places like Main Street, it was a beloved space that we’ve strengthened the ties to the community with, and that’s a pretty special opportunity for us.
The stretch people can preview this weekend, the John Street and renovated Main Street sections, offer visitors a simultaneous view of the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges from a single vantage point.
The park bridges the past and the present, using old structures to move the design into the future. Pylons from the19th century Arbuckle Coffee Factory are integrated in a tidal slip that rises and falls with the tide, exposing salt marsh grasses. Repurposed stones from the old Willis Avenue Bridge provide places for people in DUMBO to sit and eat lunch, and old cobblestones have been added at the Jay Street entrance alongside ADA accessible cobbles.
Brooklyn hounds can look forward to a dog run at the Main Street entrance. Other features include a 13,000-square-foot gathering lawn, climbing wall, public restrooms and classrooms at the Conservancy’s Environmental Education Center.
The park’s development, which relies on private development to fund the public space, has long been criticized by community groups, preservationists who do not want to see waterfront access blocked. A community meeting last week that discussed the building of two residential towers at Pier 6 was packed, with more than 90 public speakers signed up, and lasted more than five hours, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported.
“Building Brooklyn Bridge Park has been about two things: It's about welcoming New Yorkers and creating this great democratic space. And I think we’ve largely succeeded in that,” Myer said. “But there is a real harsh reality, and the only way to ensure we have money to sustain this park forever's by these development sites that have been approved since 2005. People forget how fast a park can sink to almost catastrophic neglect … Our financial model, which does have it’s critics, allows us to not have that problem.”
Stretches at the northern and southern ends of the park will have soft openings in August, Myer said.