Brooklyn Bridge Park: One Pier at a Time

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Many New Yorkers have discovered Brooklyn Bridge Park. Many others have yet to explore the ever-growing park creations that unfold there almost every month. On May 22, Brooklyn Bridge Park celebrated the opening of its latest two additions: Pier 2 athletic facilities and the Pier 4 Beach, a total of six acres of recreation space.

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Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. has overseen the design and implementation of the self-sustaining green space. The beauty of these two new areas is that they are perfect examples of how city land can be repurposed for the greater good. The 650-foot-long, five-acre Pier 2 was originally built by the New York Dock Company in the 1950s for commercial shipping and warehousing. The architects retrofitted the original building frame with a new metal roof to provide shade and rain protection, inserting skylights as well as lights for nighttime play. The project included renovating and reusing the pier decks, cheek walls, the roof frame, and even the Pier 2 lettering.

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Visitors can dive into a number of sports on the pier, which now comprises five full-sized basketball courts, including one with fully adjustable hoops; six handball courts; three shuffleboard courts; two full-sized Bocce courts; and a workout area. A half-acre of artificial grass has been installed for non-organized recreation, plus a play area with children’s swings.

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Picnic tables, restrooms, lockers, bike racks, and water stations have all been incorporated. Moveable team benches and bleachers are available for both the basketball courts and what will soon be a full-size roller skating rink. The rink will open in late June to provide roller and in-line skating, hockey, and roller derby opportunities.

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A thirty-foot-wide promenade encircles the pier, offering magnificent views of the New York Harbor and Statue of Liberty. Pier 2 Dock will also reopen this year to provide a launch for walk-up kayaking.

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The concrete deck is supported by 2,500 timber piles. The 2/3 subway tunnels run under the pier. Recycled and salvaged materials were used as much as possible in the pier’s construction.

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Following the sinuous walking, jogging, and biking paths that trail along the waterfront between Pier 6 and Pier 1, visitors will now happen upon a small sandy beach nestled between a rocky outcropping and the remnants of a railroad float transfer bridge. Pier 4 Beach is a groundbreaking culmination of riverside elements. A stabilized shoreline, 11,000 square feet of sand, and a boat ramp bordered with granite salvaged from the Willis Avenue Bridge project make up the structure.

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What’s more exciting are two unique features. The old transfer bridge will become a nature preserve, called Bird Island. Soil stabilized at its edges with stone riprap will be planted with native species to encourage the growth of a diverse ecology, and an Osprey platform has been installed in the hopes of attracting large fishing birds. This is also part of the park plan to buffer the coastline against future storms and floods.

And, for the first time in the United States, 7 precast tide pools have been installed at the Pier 4 Beach to allow for marine-life study. Designed by ECOncrete, the pools consist of a special concrete mix that reduces CO2 emissions to attract sea life.

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In November, BBP opened the Pier 3 Greenway Terrace, adding spacious lawns, a granite terrace, and the first of the park’s sound-attenuating hills (to block noise from the BQE). An installation by Dahn Vo titled “We the People,” a replica of the draped sleeve of the Statue of Liberty’s arm that holds the golden torch, echoes the sight of the real thing across the harbor.

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As Brooklyn Bridge Park expands, the lush-green features installed in the last few years—the waterfront promenade; the grassy hill where summertime movies play; as well as fun details like the Pier 5 picnic tables and barbecue grills—will only continue to fill in and grow more complete.

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Brooklyn Bridge Park

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.

ECOncrete

Dahn Vo: We the People

Post by Anne Hellman

Photographs by Michel Arnaud