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Landmarks commission okays outdoor cafe design for Fulton Ferry Landing

February 4, 2020 Lore Croghan
Here’s the Marine Fire Boat Station and hose shed, which stand alongside the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

A waterfront cafe and bar planned for the dock beside the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, which has been on hold since last April, can now move forward.

On Tuesday, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a revised design for an outdoor restaurant pavilion that will be built on Fulton Ferry Landing Pier next to the Marine Fire Boat Station at 1 Water St. The vote was unanimous.

The Commission had rejected a design originally put forth in April by the architect for Miles and Alex Pincus, the cafe and bar operators. The pavilion will take the place of Buzz Bar, which operated in a tent.

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Brooklyn Bridge Park awarded the Pincus brothers the outdoor concession for the ferry dock in December 2018.

They have a 10-year license with one three-year renewal option for the space, for which they pay an annualized guaranteed minimum fee of $93,000 or a combined 8 percent of food and 10 percent of alcohol sales, whichever is higher, Brooklyn Bridge Park announced when it made the concession award.

This is the revised design for the Fulton Ferry Landing Pier restaurant pavilion. Starling Architecture via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
This is the revised design for the Fulton Ferry Landing Pier restaurant pavilion. Starling Architecture via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

The Starling Architecture design that the LPC approved on Tuesday is a bare-bones structure consisting of rope-wrapped aluminum poles and a rectangular perimeter of banquette seating, with a retractable cloth canopy to serve as its roof. There are no windows in the mostly open-air design.

Starling Architecture devised the minimalist design in response to the LPC’s criticism that the pavilion, as originally conceived, would have obstructed views of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

The original version of the pavilion had flip-up windows and an opaque roof and was attached to a small building called a hose shed, which was constructed in 1929. In the revised design, the open-air cafe and bar is separated from the hose shed.

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The Pincus brothers’ eatery will be closed from early November to early April, a LPC staffer said during a public meeting before the LPC vote. During those months, the redesigned restaurant pavilion will be partly dismantled.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation President Eric Landau said at the public meeting that the restaurant operators prefer Option A for dismantling the pavilion — which involves the removal of the cloth roof canopy and the shrink-wrapping of the pavilion’s bar. The banquettes will be left uncovered for the public to sit on.

Option B involves taking down the roof canopy and the structure that holds it up and shrink-wrapping the banquettes. In its vote, the LPC approved both options.

Here’s the Fulton Ferry Landing Pier with the Brooklyn Bridge visible on Lower Manhattan’s shoreline. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
Here’s the Fulton Ferry Landing Pier with the Brooklyn Bridge visible on Lower Manhattan’s shoreline. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

Two local organizations wrote the LPC letters objecting to the revised pavilion design. They provided the Brooklyn Eagle with copies of their missives.

“The Fulton Ferry Landing Pier is not an appropriate site for any new structure or addition because it impedes access at a critical juncture, and takes away from the scenic view plane of the Brooklyn Bridge,” the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council wrote.

“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as the primary gateway to Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the only place along its entire perimeter that one can actually see and experience the East River from near and far, there is absolutely no need for a concession in this location. This busy area of the park requires open, unimpeded space without any need for programming whatsoever,” said the letter, which Design and Concessions Committee Co-Chairs Doreen Gallo and Katrin Adam signed.

The council, which represents 19 community organizations, provides a forum for Brooklyn residents to give their feedback to Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation about its major initiatives and policies, the park’s website says.

Here’s the revised design of the Fulton Ferry Landing Pier restaurant pavilion facing the direction of the Manhattan skyline. Starling Architecture via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
Here’s the revised design of the Fulton Ferry Landing Pier restaurant pavilion facing the Manhattan skyline. Image courtesy Starling Architecture via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

The Fulton Ferry Landing Association also wrote the LPC a letter objecting to the restaurant pavilion’s construction.

“The Fulton Ferry community has never accepted or approved the idea of an additional concession on this pier,” said this letter, which was signed by Adam, who’s a longtime Fulton Ferry Landing Association board member.

The association won the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award for its stewardship of the design and reconstruction of the pier and the restoration of the Marine Fire Boat Station and hose shed in the 1990s.

That design conceptualized “a wide-open pier space” that’s “free from any fixed permanent obstructions, leading to the river, the sweeping views of the skyline with its landmarks, the harbor with its boat activities and the great stonework and span of the adjacent Brooklyn Bridge,” the letter said.

“Again we request a space fully accessible to the public to enjoy what the ambience of this very special, existing public pier can offer — free access to linger, to dance, to make music, to celebrate, to play and of course to take photographs of all kinds,” the letter added.

The two groups’ reps did not testify at Tuesday’s meeting because the LPC’s procedural rules only allow public testimony at the hearing at which a design is initially presented. In the case of the Pincus brothers’ restaurant pavilion, that happened in April 2019.

Here’s the Fulton Ferry Landing Pier restaurant pavilion as you face the Brooklyn Bridge. Starling Architecture via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
Here’s the Fulton Ferry Landing Pier restaurant pavilion as you face the Brooklyn Bridge. Starling Architecture via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

As Brooklyn Bridge Park announced in December 2018, the Pincus brothers will dock a restored FDNY fire boat, the Governor Alfred E. Smith, on the north side of Fulton Ferry Landing Pier. The historic boat will have additional cafe and bar seating.

The fire boat was not mentioned at Tuesday’s LPC meeting.

The Pincus brothers are known for turning historic ships into floating restaurants and bars. One of them, Grand Banks, is housed in a fishing schooner called the Sherman Zwicker, which was hand-built in 1942 and is the largest wooden vessel in New York City. It docks at Pier 25 in Manhattan’s Hudson River Park.

Another, which is called Pilot, is housed on a century-old schooner that docks at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6.

The pier where the Pincus brothers plan to build their restaurant pavilion is located within the Fulton Ferry Historic District, which was designated in 1977.

The Colonial Revival-style Marine Fire Boat Station that’s adjacent to the restaurant pavilion site was constructed in 1926.

FDNY fire boats operated out of this station until 1970. They used the tower in the white-shingle-covered building to hang their fire hoses out to dry, a Brownstoner story by architectural history expert Suzanne Spellen says.

This is another look at the Fulton Ferry Landing Pier restaurant pavilion, which the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved. Starling Architecture via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
This is another look at the Fulton Ferry Landing Pier restaurant pavilion, which the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved. Starling Architecture via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

The location where the outdoor restaurant pavilion is located is steeped in history. The first ferry service between Brooklyn and Manhattan started there in 1642.

Robert Fulton launched his Brooklyn-Manhattan steamship service from this site in 1814, the Bowery Boys New York City History website says. The trip took just 12 minutes.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.


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