Could Bridge Park Expand Into Current Power Plant Site?

Dennis Holt
Brooklyn Broadside

Can there be such a thing as Manifest Destiny for Brooklyn Bridge Park? That old term, which related to America’s westward expansion in the 1800s, could describe one of the issues pertaining to the new park.

It may seem silly to talk about a larger park when the original park is only about a third built, but an event may take place this year that would draw attention to the subject. Why not introduce the topic now?

For openers, one must remember that Brooklyn Bridge Park was originally planned to stretch only between at Piers 1 and 5. Pier 6 was added later in the game because approval had to be obtained from the city — the rest of the piers were property of the Port Authority.

After developer David Walentas came up with the idea of expanding and improving Empire Fulton Ferry State Park to complement his DUMBO property, the park planners moved to incorporate Empire-Fulton Ferry and a DUMBO section, originally a city park, as well. The park now ends at Jay Street.

At one time, there was speculation that future park expansion could include Piers 7 and 8. However, that seems quite unlikely now because these piers are still being actively used for commercial purposes.

But there is a possibility of expansion in the DUMBO-Vinegar Hill part of town.

For the longest time, the precious waterfront from Jay Street to the Navy Yard has been the site of a large and ugly electric power plant owned by Con Edison. It used to be the major source of steam heat for much of Manhattan. None of the new buildings in Manhattan use steam heat, and the need for this plant has diminished.

Believe it or not, Con Ed is going to tear that old rattletrap down, much to the delight of Vinegar Hill residents.

Park leadership has had some preliminary discussions with Con Ed about the site. No one is saying anything right now. It will take awhile to dismantle the plant; environmental surveys will surely have to be done, and finances will have to be calculated.

But it is possible to conceive that at least part of the parcel could be converted to park use. Some appealing buildings could be built, and the real estate taxes from one of them could be dedicated to fund the park. The prospects are many and tantalizing.

It’s interesting to speculate whether what once was conceived as a north-south park will turn out to be more of an east-west park.

There’s one more item, which has nothing to do with expansion. Most reporting on recent park developments hasn’t addressed the issue of Furman Street.

The original park plan proposed to make Furman a two-way street, but nothing has been said about that for years. The proposal for the hotel-housing complex noted that that issue is still being discussed, and bidders must consider both options in their planning.

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Filed under Brooklyn Broadside, Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO

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