Brooklyn Bridge Park Opens, Locals Gain Green Space

It would be reductive to say that it took 20 years for Brooklyn Bridge Park to open. It truly is a feat to create a brand new, and quite grand, city park when the Governor of New York State has been closing parks everywhere else. To do it in a recession, when housing prices are still falling and lots of New Yorkers are out of work, is even more of a feat.

True, only 9.5 acres of the total 85 opened this week. But it's 9.5 acres in a part of town -- Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill -- that has a dearth of parkland and public recreation space to offer. Curbed points out that in addition to fields, playgrounds and waterfront walkways -- watch out, Brooklyn Heights Promenade, you have competition -- Pier 1 has a "stairway to nowhere," a granite sculpture of steps that will be a favorite of wedding parties and tourists posing for pictures.
From a real estate perspective, the park is nothing but good news. Although there's no way to know exactly the impact of green space on real estate values, this study estimates that proximity and access to parks increases property values by as much as 20 percent. And developers have long believed that golf course communities were attractive not because residents loved their five irons, but because the fairway is a promise of permanent green space.

This park, in fact, has been more closely tied to real estate than most public park projects. The luxury condominium project One Brooklyn Bridge Park -- located within the park's borders -- is contributing $3 million annually to the park for maintenance and operations. But plenty of folks have objected to the idea of placing private housing inside a public park, claiming it would make visitors feel they were breaking into someone's personal yard. And the condo's contributions don't mean the park's finances area all set. The park's conservancy has $231 million of the $350 million in place, and no amount of penthouses will fill that gap.

Meanwhile, Dumbo is already the priciest neighborhood in Brooklyn (or at least it was in 2008), the neighborhood that transformed the fastest and most dramatically in large part due to a massive overhaul by the developers Two Trees. Love 'em or hate 'em, they put the neighborhood between the bridges on the map. (Ironically, they're about to build a huge project that will block views of the Brooklyn Bridge). So the park is good news for them, as well as residents who bought in their condo buildings.

And it looks like now that the ball is rolling, it won't take decades more to get the park finished. Pier 6 is set to open later in the spring, which will include a monster playground, a concession stand with an outdoor roof deck and volleyball courts. And while Pier 1 is open, it's not quite done. Come summer, a salt marsh with native plants and a granite seating area (hm, is that comfy?) will open, too.

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