Photo by Jack Pritchard

Place Studies

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Brooklyn, New York

Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, NY. Photograph by Elizabeth Felicella.

In 2010, Brooklyn Bridge Park completed its first phase of construction, including Pier 1, the uplands of Pier 6, and the initial stages of a park pathway connecting the two.  The 1.3 mile-long park replaces a flat and featureless industrial waterfront with new public spaces set amidst robust planting and nuanced topography. The new park will eventually be a critical instrument of social and ecological transformation of Brooklyn’s urban waterfront.

Even in its partially completed state, Brooklyn Bridge Park offers a diverse range of landscape features. These include lawns, gently sloped hills, extensive seating, pathways, volleyball courts, a salt marsh, a kayak launch, connections to regional bikeways, concessions, and an innovative playground.  Active enjoyment of the water’s edge is an important goal of the park program: an extensive network of plantings alongside meandering pathways provides relief from the intense summer afternoon sun, and carefully graded slopes provide places that are sheltered from the wind off the harbor. Park lighting is held back from the water’s edge to set up dramatic evening views of the city across the river.

Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park. © 2012 Alex S. MacLean/Landslides –

Brooklyn Bridge Park speaks to and enhances the relationship between the city and the natural environment. The stepped granite prospect, made of salvaged stone and built into a hillside, provides sunset views beyond the Statue of Liberty. Two lushly planted freshwater wetlands slow and cleanse run-off, as well as attracting many of the sixty different species of birds that have been sighted in the park. A constructed salt marsh sits alongside a remnant pile field that also serves as a kayak course, and a spiral rip-rap ramp provides a rare opportunity for visitors to venture close to the water’s edge. Combined, these amenities support a public space that is inspiring and engaging, and that begins to renew a long-suppressed relationship to the city’s natural environment.

Waterfront promenade, heading north to Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park. © 2012 Elizabeth Felicella –

Landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates designed the park after participating in a master planning effort that took place in the late 1990s. But the idea to build a park in this location originated with park neighbors, and the community played an influential role in the design process.