DUMBO

What should be put at Anchorage Plaza in DUMBO?

The lots are right next to the Brooklyn Bridge

April 11, 2023 Mary Frost
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DUMBO — Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. is the deadline for people to submit ideas about what should be done with a long-neglected but spectacularly scenic area of DUMBO, right next to the Brooklyn Bridge.

The NYC Parks Department has put out a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the “temporary and seasonal” activation of Anchorage Plaza. Parks says it is looking for someone with ideas on how to use the space for events or amenities like a farmers market, community garden or pickle-ball fields.

The plaza, which has been used by the city’s Department of Transportation as a parking lot and staging area for bridge work since 2009, consists of three sections: the Old Fulton Street Yard, the Washington Street Yard, and Ash Alley, an alley below the Brooklyn Bridge connecting both yards.  

Residents say they are thrilled that the yards are being transformed into parkland. But some worry that the space may end up as yet another tourist attraction, and are beseeching the Parks Department to not turn the site into a “circus.”

Washington Street Yard, part of Anchorage Plaza which is currently being used as a parking lot by NYC Department of Transportation, is returning to the Parks Department. What to do with it is the question. (Shown here: the eastern section of the yard.) Eagle photo by Mary Frost

‘Amazing space,’ with tremendous potential

DOT has used the plaza as a parking lot for so long that many locals were surprised to learn the land actually belonged to Parks —  including DOT employees at the Washington Street Yard, who told this reporter last week, “You must have the wrong lot.”

Anchorage Plaza “has tremendous potential as a public space with seasonal amenities,” NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue said in a statement. “With its stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline, Anchorage Plaza is a prime location for creative activations.”

Washington Street Yard, part of Anchorage Plaza which is currently being used as a parking lot by NYC Department of Transportation, is returning to the Parks Department. What to do with it is the question. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

“It’s an amazing space and an opportunity — there’s tons of awesome uses that could come into play,”said Alexandria Sica, executive director of the DUMBO Business Improvement District. “From a junkyard playground, to a sculpture garden to a magical cafe, it could be a gathering spot and anchor to our community.”

Sica said the BID has been advocating for the return of the parkland since the release of the 2013 Brooklyn Tech Triangle report, which was prepared by WXY Studio, DOT’s partner in the upcoming massive Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) reconstruction. 

Some DUMBO stakeholders, however, are worried that the offering may result in yet another tourist magnet in an area that is already overwhelmed with crowds.

Washington, Fulton and Main streets are often clogged with pedestrians and traffic during warm weather as illegally-parked ice cream trucks and other vendors cater to the thousands of tourists spilling into Brooklyn Bridge Park. 

The Old Fulton Street Yard section of Anchorage Plaza, located on the Fulton Ferry side of the Brooklyn Bridge, is also reverting to parkland. The Olympia DUMBO condo rises in the background. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

Gallo: Don’t block the view 

Doreen Gallo, president of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance (DNA) and the Cadman Park Conservancy, has been working for decades to preserve historic DUMBO and its Belgium block streets. Gallo said she discovered that Anchorage Plaza was designated as parkland in the spring of 2021 during a walkthrough with DOT staff and former area Councilmember Stephen Levin.

“There should not be a whole development in front of one of the wonders of the world,” Gallo said. “We have to make sure we don’t construct anything blocking the view of the Brooklyn Bridge or turn it into a circus. Almost every other view of the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO is obstructed.”

Gallo pointed out that “even the trees they planted on Clumber Corner [across the street] 20 years ago have now grown so tall they block the scenic view plane.” 

Doreen Gallo, president of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance (DNA) and the Cadman Park Conservancy, wants to make sure whatever is built in Anchorage Plaza (shown behind her) doesn’t block the view of the Brooklyn Bridge or “turn it into a circus.” Eagle photo by Mary Frost

After the BQE work is completed, Gallo’s organization wants a future permanent park to celebrate the Brooklyn Bridge and the remarkable woman who was essential to its construction.

“DNA will advocate to Commissioner Martin Mahar and the Parks Department to consider naming this significant site for Emily Warren Roebling,” Gallo said.

The Old Fulton Street portion of Anchorage Plaza falls within Fulton Ferry, on the south side of the bridge. 

“Our position is that whatever is selected/designed for these spaces should be geared towards the local residents as opposed to tourists, since DUMBO and Fulton Ferry are already inundated with tourists as it is,” Bill Stein, a board member of the Fulton Ferry Landing Association, told the Brooklyn Eagle. 

Stein said he spoke at the November CB2 Parks Committee meeting where the Parks Department first presented the plans, and attended the March 31 RFEI session.

FFLA members “specifically welcome the concept of an enhanced pedestrian connection under the BQE between both sides of Anchorage Plaza along Old Fulton Street, and the reopening of ‘Ash Alley’ to the public for direct access to Washington Street,” Stein said.

Vendors cover the fence surrounding the Washington Street Yard with tacky NYC merchandise — foam Statue of Liberty hats, I Heart NY T-shirts and other items for sale to the armies of tourists walking past. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

‘Enough of a circus’

David Hill, owner of Frameworks New York on Washington Street in DUMBO, said he likes the idea of replacing the Washington Street parking lot with an amenity, but like other stakeholders, doesn’t want a tourist-oriented concession to go there. 

“It’s enough of a circus in DUMBO,” Hill said. “Last weekend it was nuts down here.”

Vendors and their tourist merchandise consistently clog the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway and Washington Street sidewalk, he added. 

DUMBO residents are not being paranoid in fearing a circus-like tourist attraction in Anchorage Plaza. In their 2013 Tech Triangle report, DOT’s design partner WXY Studio proposed installing an enormous helium observation balloon attraction there. Rendering courtesy of WXY Studio

A Disney-sized observation balloon?

Fears of a circus-like attraction are not farfetched. In their 2013 Tech Triangle report, DOT’s design partner WXY Studio proposed installing an enormous helium observation balloon attraction at Anchorage Plaza. WXY, in the years since, updated their plans for the area in their Brooklyn Strand study.

WXY proposed naming the balloon ride “Brooklyn Rising” because: “The balloon will symbolize the revitalization and growth of Brooklyn … The balloon would hold up to 30 passengers at a time and be a great tourist attraction and neighborhood amenity … At the base of the balloon would be a plaza with a queuing line and a visitor center with ticket booths and restrooms.”

A balloon of this size would be equal in size to the massive Aerophile balloon, custom built for Disney — one of the largest passenger balloons in the world. 

The Brooklyn Eagle reached out to the Parks Department to inquire if a Disney-sized tourist balloon attraction was still in the cards for DUMBO. 

“As a matter of policy, NYC Parks does not comment on submissions during the RFEI process,” a Parks Department spokesperson told the Eagle.


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