The Brooklyn Tech Triangle—an initiative seeking to turn the city’s most populous borough into a technology capital that rivals Silicone Valley—has taken another step forward. A consortium that includes the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, The Brooklyn Navy Yard, and the DUMBO Improvement District recently hired New York City firm WXY Architecture + Urban Design to develop a master plan geared toward fostering the growth of a technology-based economy. WXY principal Adam Lubinsky told AN about some of the measures the firm plans to implement.
“We’re calling it a strategic plan,” said Lubinsky. “There are so many elements of the plan that aren’t physical.” For example, in order to ensure that there is a proper work force in place, WXY calls for starting training programs at local universities to prepare students for the tech world.
Much of the scheme, however, does center on generating office space that meets the needs of tech firms. “There is a lot of demand for space, but not necessarily the right supply,” said Lubinsky. WXY is currently brainstorming ways to find and create conducive working environments for the industry.
Most of what Lubinsky told AN about the plan involves alterations to the urban fabric that will seek to create a more pleasant experience on the street while stitching together three districts that are currently separated by transportation infrastructure—Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The plan suggests changes to Columbus Park and Cadman Plaza. It inserts a café and new lighting into Cadman Plaza. It converts a parking lot at the southern tip of Columbus Park abutting Adams Street into a public park. This park also forms a link between two sides of Downtown Brooklyn.
One of the largest challenges for WXY is finding ways to make the wide, heavily trafficked roads, like Adams Street, more welcoming. One solution the firm has come up with is lining these vehicular thoroughfares with retail and restaurant spaces. “There is a real synergy between people who live in Brooklyn and people who want to work in Brooklyn. There is a holistic environment for living, working, and hanging out that is really amazing and we want to accentuate that,” said Lubinsky. The firm plans to add glass box extensions to one of the Metrotech buildings located on Flatbush Avenue. The transparent boxes will house retail spaces and a café.
WXY proposed the use of lighting to make the muscular spaghetti works of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE), the Manhattan Bridge, and the Brooklyn Bridge overpasses more inviting and easier to navigate. A similar approach was taken by Tillett Lighting Design and architecture practice KT3D with their 2008 permanent light art installation This Way, which illuminates the pedestrian access point beneath he Brooklyn Bridge.
The plan also encourages the use of technology in the public realm. It establishes digital touch points, similar to those proposed in the NYC Payphone Design Competition, that feature interactive touch screens, and pervasive Wi-Fi.
The plan also focuses on improving transportation in the district. WXY proposed extending bus lines, two-way bike lines, and walkways. The initiative includes a ferry connection to be integrated into the final phases of Brooklyn Bridge Park. It also extends the B67 bus route, which currently terminates at York Street in Dumbo, through the Navy Yard to a connection with the J, M, and Z subway line in Williamsburg.
“This is a multidisciplinary, multi-dimensional strategic plan where physical components are tied together with transportation and real building design,” said Lubinsky. “The other elements, like training and getting the right kind of work force in place have made this a really interesting process. Making this area into a dynamic hub for technology is going to take a lot of efforts from different areas.”