Ideas for the Brooklyn Strand include a permanent home for Smorgasburg
Imagine a new home for Smorgasburg or a revamped Brooklyn War Memorial at Cadman Plaza Park with better lighting, bathrooms and more public programming. These were some of the ideas community members brainstormed during a Community Board 2 (CB2) meeting that focused on the Brooklyn Strand at the Ingersoll Recreational Center in Downtown Brooklyn on Thursday.
The Brooklyn Strand is the nickname for the 116-acre swatch of parks and public spaces between Borough Hall and Brooklyn Bridge Park in Downtown Brooklyn that the city hopes to redesign. The idea behind the Brooklyn Strand initiative is to make the area easier for pedestrian traffic and better connected to the surrounding neighborhoods.
“The Brooklyn Strand initiative represents a tremendous opportunity for all of us here to come together to really shape what the future of this area is going to be,” said Alan Washington of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, one of the groups in charge of reimagining the space. “This is important not because it is something that we will benefit from today. It’s important because it’s going to benefit the future generations that will be here for many years to come.”
The potential relocation of Smorgasburg to a permanent spot was one idea that gained traction with organizers. The outdoor food market has already relocated twice, and at Thursday’s meeting, some suggested it be moved to the parking lot located at Prospect and Jay streets underneath the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway overpasses.
“In a process like this, ideas from the community are the whole thing,” said Tucker Reed, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “You can’t do something like this — try to reimagine public space — without engaging the public. Most of the great ideas are going to come from a night like this where someone comes in with an idea that nobody has thought of yet and open it up to conversation.”
At Thursday’s public meeting, people broke off into four groups to determine how to best use the existing assets of the area, increase safety, improve connections and talk about what types of programming they would hope to see established in the spaces once they are transformed.
“When people start talking about this, they realize that these spaces can be so dynamic if you create the right kinds of designs, activities and connections,” said Adam Lubinsky, a principal at WXY Studio, one of the groups in charge of reimagining the space. “The spaces are already there. It’s really activating them that’s going to make it much more interesting for people.”
Many people also agreed that the entire area needs better lighting, signage, more bathrooms and safer intersections. Expanding the Brooklyn Book Festival was also discussed, as was a possible centennial celebration of World War I at the Korean War Memorial in 2017.
With residents coming from all over the CB2 area, many were concerned that the Strand should be accessible from all of the surrounding neighborhoods — not just Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO.
“We’re trying to make this space accessible to all neighborhoods in Brooklyn, so even if someone lives near the Walt Whitman Homes or on Clinton Avenue, we need to make the park accessible to them,” said Helen Nwosu of WXY Studio. “Safe, seamless connections, whether it’s by walking, public transportation, or by biking.”
The meeting was about generating ideas, so issues such as lack of funding, particularly from the Parks Department, or what to do with the infestation of rats in the area, were not discussed at length. WXY Studio is hoping to continue gathering ideas via email at [email protected]. It also encouraged groups looking to do a walking tour of the area to email them.
There will be another meeting on Jan. 15 to discuss some specific ideas from Thursday’s meeting, as well as any other ideas that are sent to them between now and then.
“This is just the start,” said Claire Weisz of WXY Studio. “Tonight is our first public work session. It’s really important to the process because this is the first time we’re going to be drawing at tables and really elaborating on some ideas.”
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