New Roebling Plaza under Brooklyn Bridge is named for Emily

Emily's great-great grandson Kriss, who lives nearby, attends ceremony

December 9, 2020 Editorial Staff
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Brooklyn Bridge Park on Wednesday broke ground on the space underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. This section will complete the Park as originally planned and will be named in honor of Emily Roebling, the engineer known for her work ensuring the completion of the Bridge.

The area will be transformed into a flexible public space that will add two acres of parkland and connect the DUMBO section of Brooklyn Bridge Park with the southern piers.

Emily Roebling Plaza will consist of a large hardscape area which will feature unique concrete pavers that will echo the design and engineering of the Bridge and will be surrounded by trees, benches and lawns.

The adjacent Empire Fulton Ferry Lawn will also undergo a renovation, and the project includes the installation of over one hundred protective bollards stretching from Old Fulton Street and Furman Street to Water Street and New Dock Street.

“It’s a true joy to see that the exact physical location which my great-great grandmother Emily called her workspace for over a decade will now be adorned with her name. I think that she would be delighted.” said Kriss Roebling, great-great grandson of Emily Roebling.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, with Kriss, Meg, Chase and August Roebling.

“Park space is more important than ever as New Yorkers continue to practice social distancing and spend more time outdoors,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I am thrilled that Emily Roebling’s work to complete the Brooklyn Bridge will be immortalized at Brooklyn Bridge Park, and I look forward to seeing this wonderful space serving New Yorkers for generations to come.”

Brooklyn Bridge Park, one of the largest and most significant public projects to be built in New York City in a generation, has transformed a once-dilapidated industrial waterfront into a vibrant and thriving 85-acre civic landscape.

Brooklyn Bridge Park stretches 1.3 miles from Atlantic Avenue in the south to Jay Street north of the Manhattan Bridge, spanning the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO along the East River.

The self-sustaining park was designed by the award-winning firm of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. and features expansive lawns, rolling hills, waterfront promenades, innovative playgrounds, a greenway, sports facilities and the popular Jane’s Carousel.

“Brooklyn Bridge Park has become a powerful symbol of our borough’s renewal over the past decade, revitalizing our waterfront, drawing foreign visitors and local residents alike to take in its natural beauty, and offering diverse recreational opportunities,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “With the groundbreaking of this last section, we are finally fulfilling a vision that has been decades in the making. I have been proud to allocate more than $4.1 million in capital funding towards the completion of the park during my tenure, including $1.5 million specifically to the Plaza area, and thank Brooklyn Bridge Park and all local stakeholders for bringing this project to fruition.”

Kriss Roebling spoke at the event. Photo: John McCarten/Brooklyn Eagle

“This year marks the 10th anniversary of Brooklyn Bridge Park being open to the public, and today’s groundbreaking kicks off the construction of the final section of parkland,” said Eric Landau, Brooklyn Bridge Park president. “We look forward to enjoying a completed Park that flows seamlessly from north to the south, a significant milestone of the Park, as well as the amazing opportunity to revel in the rich history of the Brooklyn Bridge. Once completed, this space will be a keystone for the Park and we are thrilled to honor Emily Roebling’s work by naming it for her.”

“On the tenth anniversary of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s opening, I can see few better ways to celebrate, than by commemorating one of our nation’s groundbreaking and vital engineers,” said U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez. “This final portion of the park, to be named Emily Roebling Plaza, will mark the completion of the park and transform a once underutilized space into a thriving public plaza. As this last stage begins, I can see the heart and history of Brooklyn echoed in the landscape. I eagerly await the completion of this project, and a time when families can return to enjoy this marvelous public parkland.”

“It is always a pleasure to celebrate the creation of more parkland in our communities, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made us especially aware of just how vital and necessary our parks are, as New Yorkers seek fresh air, exercise, and inspiration, while adhering to public health guidelines,” said State Sen. Brian Kavanagh, who represents the waterfront area that encompasses Brooklyn Bridge Park. “Today’s groundbreaking is particularly exciting because it marks the start of construction for the final section of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which will allow visitors to fully enjoy all aspects of the park that was promised over a decade ago. And the choice to rename this space after Emily Roebling, one of the engineers who was a driving force behind the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge more than a century ago, is a wonderful way to preserve the history of this great borough. Thank you to Brooklyn Bridge Park, to my colleagues in government, and to the many community advocates and supporters who have made this park the wonderful place that it has become and who are always working to make it even better.”

Brooklyn Bridge Park President Eric Landau gave remarks. Photo: John McCarten/Brooklyn Eagle

“In the course of a decade, Brooklyn Bridge Park has become an iconic destination for New Yorkers and visitors alike,” said Deputy Mayor Vicki Been. “We are thrilled to be breaking ground on the final section of the Park which will add two more acres during a time when open space is so critical. I can’t think of a more fitting name and I am so pleased that Emily Roebling’s remarkable accomplishments will be honored at this site.”

“I couldn’t be happier that this area of the park will be named after Emily Roebling, a persistent woman ahead of her time, and will recognize her incredible work completing the Brooklyn Bridge,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. “Thanks to the ‪Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation for continuing to improve and beautify our waterfront.

“I have seen this land on our waterfront develop into a flourishing park over the years, with committed leadership from the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, the City and State, and the tireless efforts and advocacy of the Community Advisory Council and stakeholders engaged in this process from the outset,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin. “The plaza beneath the Brooklyn Bridge marks the final section of Brooklyn Bridge Park to be completed, transforming inactive space for purposes which serve the public at large. Most notably, this new and aptly-named section of the park directly beneath the Brooklyn Bridge will be named in honor of Emily Warren Roebling, who was responsible for completing the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. An ever-critical component, the installation of protective bollards, will ensure safe pedestrian use and enjoyment of this Brooklyn treasure.”

“New Yorkers need our parks more than ever right now, for recreation, exercise and connection while we try to maintain social distance to keep each other healthy,” said Councilmember Brad Lander. “I’m looking forward to appreciating the groundbreaking work of the new section’s namesake Emily Roebling during long walks and rides in the completed Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

“Brooklyn Bridge Park complements the Fulton Ferry Historic District with its beautiful greenery and offers the finest views of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan skyline,” said Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll. “This project, approved by the Commission, will strengthen the relationship between the significant historic buildings along Old Fulton Street and the waterfront and make the base of the Brooklyn Bridge tower and the waterfront more visually accessible and pedestrian friendly.”

From left, Councilmember Stephen Levin, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Chair Victor Calise, Deputy Mayor Vicki Been, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Brooklyn Bridge Park President Eric Landau, Kriss Roebling and State Sen. Brian Kavanagh broke ground on the project. Photo: John McCarten/Brooklyn Eagle

“Emily Roebling Plaza will continue in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s tradition of welcoming New Yorkers to the waterfront. It has been an honor designing this civic landscape for nearly twenty years and fitting that the final piece be completed beneath the park’s namesake,” said Michael Van Valkenburgh, president and CEO of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.

“We congratulate our partners at Brooklyn Bridge Park on this monumental achievement. In tandem with the 10 year anniversary this year, it is an exciting moment for everyone who has supported this vision from the beginning,” said Nancy Webster, executive director of Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. “Now more than ever, Brooklyn Bridge Park is a vital resource for the community, serving as a place of joy, wonder, exploration, and respite for thousands of New Yorkers.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered remarks at the Emily Roebling Plaza groundbreaking on Wednesday.

“It’s cold weather but we are here, feeling the warmth of something really great we’re doing together today. And Eric [Landau] is right – Eric, thank you for your extraordinary leadership over years making this park better and better. But I want to tell you, this today, this is joyous for me because I was involved with an amazing group of Brooklynites decades ago who envisioned this park and fought for it. And we really had to fight for it. There was actually a lot of opposition to creating Brooklyn Bridge Park. But it turned out to be one of the most beautiful egalitarian, amazing, moving parts of Brooklyn, something new that made Brooklyn the center of the universe – already the center of the universe, Brooklyn got even better because of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The future site of Emily Roebling Plaza. Photo: John McCarten/Brooklyn Eagle

“But Brooklyn Bridge Park is not finished. This is the last frontier. This is the last great piece that has to happen. Two more acres and this park reaches 85 acres. And so, I wanted to be here today to say thank you to everyone who fought for this park, everyone who worked for this park, and to see this last piece coming together. Quick thank you’s: Deputy Mayor Vicki Been, thank you for your leadership. Victor Calise, who does an amazing job running the Office for People with Disabilities. Senator Kavanagh, Councilmember Levin, but especially Kriss Roebling. That history is beautiful, that here American history changed because Emily Roebling showed something that people needed to see about the power and talent and ability of women. This park, this section right here, is going to help us understand how we progressed in yesteryear, but we have to progress again now in this time.

“And this is the last thing I want to say, this is an example of what New York City is all about. First, the bridge itself, a miracle in its time, couldn’t be done anywhere else. It could be done in Brooklyn. It could be done in New York City. Long ago, we learned a lesson. Generations ago we learned a lesson about the power and ingenuity and energy of New Yorkers. They built this bridge and the world marveled. And at the same time, they proved that we can have fairness and equality, and Emily Roebling was the example of that in this city, where the suffrage movement took root, where so many fights for civil rights had progressed, where the LGBT movement was born. This is a city that does great things, that creates great things, but also creates fairness and justice. And we have to do it again in 2021 and the years beyond. So, I’m also here today because I wanted you to see something being built in New York City that is an example of our rebirth. This is another step towards something greater for this city. And to everyone who’s been a part of it, thank you for what you did before but thank you even more for what you will do in the years ahead.”

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  1. Andrew Porter

    I recall initial plans for this area were for a skating rink. Later, it housed the Brooklyn Flea. Then it was a staging area for the reconstruction of the bridge overhead.

    Of course, this was the original site of the Purchase Dept. buildings and storage yard, initially planned to be leveled 20 years ago but then where debris from the World Trade Center was sorted for human remains.

    Here’s a photo of the Purchase Dept. building while under construction that was originally on the site: