Brooklyn Heights

Study suggests expanding waterfront activities at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Possibilities: More kayaking, cruises, a jitney or maybe a summer camp

November 9, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Where cargo ships once docked, the 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park has drawn millions to Brooklyn’s shoreline.

The park’s efforts to find ways to do more along the water have been lauded by numerous organizations and the maritime community. Park visitors can launch a kayak, take sailing lessons or cast a fishing line directly into the East River.

Now, after a year of study, the nonprofit Waterfront Alliance has released a Maritime Activation Plan, which suggests new ways to expand the park’s waterfront offerings.

Since last year, the Waterfront Alliance staff have been cataloguing the park’s maritime assets. The organization says it interviewed almost 50 stakeholders as part of the process, including the park’s managers, outside vessel operators, cultural and environmental programmers, teachers, boating enthusiasts and officials.

Released Nov. 2, the plan reports on the suggestions of these stakeholders. The Waterfront Alliance says the park can use the findings to help develop its strategic priorities.

Some of the suggestions

More swimming, sailing and kayaking opportunities, particularly at the community dock at Pier 5, were requested by participants. Rowboat rentals were also suggested.

Owners of excursion vessels and historic ships voiced an interest in expanding docking at the park and increasing educational and environmental boat programs for the public. These might include ecological cruises out into the harbor and other nature excursions. Dinner or theater cruises were also on the list of suggestions.

Another idea included opening up the park’s docks to commercial cargo carriers at night as a source of park income.

“The city is short on functional waterfront, with proper docking hardware where there is deep enough water and the ability to have gangway access. Here at the park is an opportunity that’s rare in the city,” Capt. Jonathan Kabak, department of waterfront operations and training at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, said in the report.

Some participants requested a waterfront restaurant, perhaps located on the upper floors of the existing park office building. (A floating restaurant boat is already being tested.) Another suggestion is to utilize the new boathouse building on the Pier 5 uplands as a home base for a waterfront summer camp.

While East River ferries already visit the park, some participants suggested an additional 20-passenger jitney ferry, to be owned by the park, which could inexpensively provide quick intra-park connections.

Other suggestions include hosting a Tall Ships Brooklyn festival and creating a South Street Seaport Museum annex. The area around Piers 5 and 6 — with the cargo cranes on the docks of Red Hook visible — could be the site of a “hands-on working waterfront maritime heritage center.”

“Since opening to the public in 2010, Brooklyn Bridge Park has drawn millions to the previously inaccessible East River shoreline. Both through the park’s design and its public programming approach, we have worked hard to reconnect the city to its waterfront, and our work is not done yet,” Eric Landau, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park, said in a statement on Thursday.

He added, “We will continue to find ways to maximize opportunities for park users to engage with the water and strive to be a model for other public waterfronts.”

Pluses and minuses

A number of the suggestions include caveats. For example, one consideration in establishing excursions from the park would be working out acceptable park signage — not “intrusive billboards.” Limiting crowd size is also priority, so smaller boats, holding under 50 passengers, would be preferable. Space in the park for deliveries and tour passengers would be necessary.

In another case, using the boathouse as a base for a summer camp could interfere with other uses planned for the building.

The cost of some of the suggestions could be prohibitive. A jitney, beyond the cost of the boat itself, would require new, floating docks and staff. A permanently docked historic work boat would require pier utilities, sanitation services and internet access on the pier.

The ideas are not all meant to be implemented, but the findings will help the park develop its own maritime plan, the Waterfront Alliance says.

“Without a maritime plan, future programming is difficult to prioritize and implement,” the Waterfront Alliance wrote in its report. “The Maritime Activation Plan will support the park’s management in articulating its priorities for maritime use and programming, allowing the park to proactively seek out waterfront partners and expand its own maritime vision.”

The Waterfront Alliance says Brooklyn Bridge Park’s success inspired it to produce similar plans for waterfront management at other public shorelines around the region.

The entire study may be found at .

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