Brooklyn Children’s Museum announces opening of new annex in Brooklyn Bridge Park

October 11, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Spark, Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s new annex space in Brooklyn Bridge Park, will open on Oct. 15. Photos by Pavel Bendov
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Brooklyn Children’s Museum (BCM) and Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP) have announced the opening of Spark, BCM’s new 1,850-square-foot annex space located in the One John Street project in the park’s DUMBO section, which is slated for Oct. 15. 

Spark is the museum’s first expansion outside of its flagship location in Crown Heights, which has welcomed millions of children since its founding in 1899. The new space will deepen BCM’s century-long commitment to serving families in Brooklyn and will allow the museum to extend its early childhood programs to a new audience, while also expanding BBP’s cultural offerings. As many as 50,000 visitors are expected to visit Spark in its first year.

“The opening of Spark represents an exciting moment in the museum’s 117-year history,” said Stephanie Wilchfort, president and CEO of BCM. “Forever committed to serving the families of Brooklyn, Brooklyn Children’s Museum will be able to reach tens of thousands of children and caregivers. Partnerships like ours with Brooklyn Bridge Park exemplify the ways community groups can combine their strengths to further the missions of both organizations, to the benefit of both constituencies.”

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“Brooklyn Bridge Park is a welcoming place for everyone, and we’re excited to provide another amenity for children and families — both indoors and out,” said Regina Myer, outgoing president of BBP. “We’re proud that some of Brooklyn’s most venerable cultural institutions now call the park home and look forward to welcoming visitors from across the borough and the city to Spark.”

AJ Pires, president of Alloy Development, said, “For us, this space provided an opportunity: not just to house a valuable amenity for park users and the public, but to provide an important Brooklyn cultural institution with a leg up. This is a perfect example of how public-private partnerships can work to improve the city’s public realm and enrich its cultural mix.”  

Spark’s opening exhibit will be a second location of Brooklyn Block Lab (BBL), BCM’s signature early-childhood building-block play space that uses block play to support critical social and cognitive skills, from team-building and creative thinking to STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) concepts, including problem solving, math, spatial reasoning and pre-engineering concepts. BBL will consist of 1,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor space and will feature two areas of building blocks by Imagination Playground, Magna-Tiles and Kapla Planks.

In good weather, BBL will be held outside in the adjacent John Street section of BBP. Spark will also feature an art studio for the museum’s art-making, design and architecture program. Additionally, there will be a soft crawl space for young children and a hands-on area called the Discovery Den, which will feature a changing selection of the museum’s permanent collection of handle-able natural science specimens and cultural artifacts.

In 2015 and 2016, BCM piloted BBL for Schools with Public School 54 in Bedford-Stuyvesant. BBL for Schools engages elementary students in block workshops designed to strengthen math and spatial reasoning skills, while sparking children’s imagination and creativity. This year, the museum will partner with Public School 307, a STEM elementary school in Vinegar Hill, several blocks away from Spark. BCM educators will work with pre-K, kindergarten and first-grade teachers to develop and teach programs over a series of sequential visits.

Spark marks the continuation of the educational and cultural focus of BBP, which also houses St. Ann’s Warehouse, the BBP Conservancy’s Environmental Education Center and the forthcoming maritime-themed annex of the Brooklyn Historical Society, scheduled to open in the Empire Stores complex this coming spring. BBP has ensured that each cultural space includes an outdoor public space component.  

A joint venture of Alloy Development — the DUMBO-based developer and architect of One John Street — and Monadnock Development donated the annex space to BBP, enabling the museum to use it rent-free. The partnership also paid for the space’s fit-out, furniture and supplies, and provided donations to kickstart operations of the space. Alloy designed the annex’s interior pro bono. One John Street is one of five development sites in the 85-acre BBP project that fund the park’s long-term maintenance and operations. BBP selected the Alloy-Monadnock joint venture in July 2013 to develop the site through a request for proposals process. 


Spark will offer drop-in, open-play sessions on the following days:

·      1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, $15 per child, adults are free

·      1 to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays, $15 per child, adults are free

·      1 to 6 p.m. on Thursdays, free

·      1 to 5 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, $15 per child, adults are free


Spark will also feature pre-registered classes in the mornings for children and their caregivers. Fall classes include music and movement with Lavender Blues, Animal Adventures and Little Artists. Semester-long sessions will cost $300.

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For more information, visit http://www.brooklynkids.org/spark-visit/.


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