Search results for "Brooklyn Strand"

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Service Denied

New York City is full of “ADA transit deserts” according to report
New York City’s subway system may have the most stops of any in the world, but many of them are inaccessible to the disabled and mobility-impaired. This month New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer published a report highlighting accessibility issues in the city's subway system and calling for immediate action. According to the report, “of the 122 New York City neighborhoods served by the subway system, 62 do not have a single accessible station.” Of the 62 stations that do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 55 are located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.
These inaccessible stations are serving 199,242 residents with impaired mobility, 341,447 seniors, and 203,466 children. This amounts to a total of 640,000 residents who are “confined to neighborhood” as they cannot access the city’s subway network. They are restricted in terms of housing options, and those who are mobility-impaired also show a much lower labor force participation rate than the able-bodied. “Too many New Yorkers are left stranded by the MTA,” said Comptroller Scott M. Stringer in a statement. “Decades of underinvestment and neglect have real-life consequences. For every inaccessible station, there is a New Yorker who can’t get to work, pick up their children from daycare, or visit their doctors. It’s simple–a person’s livelihood should not be dictated by their mobility status, and we must take action immediately to address this crisis.” In light of this, the Comptroller supports Fast Forward, a plan proposed by the MTA and its President Andy Byford, which promises making fifty more stations ADA accessible in the next five years. It also assures that “no rider is more than two stops away from an accessible station,” across the five boroughs. However, the Comptroller recognizes the difficulty in funding a plan of that scale. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, ever at odds, have yet to agree to support the plan. Stringer urges the state legislature to introduce an $8 billion Transit Bond Act to fund the much-needed upgrades to the city’s transit system. Read the full report at this link.
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Open secret

Open House New York opens 20 downtown Brooklyn sites during AIA weekend
People can roam about in the Brooklyn Point Sales + Design Gallery designed by Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, the Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn by JDS Development, the Ashland by FXCollaborative Architects and SPAN Architecture, and many more old and new landmarks in Making Place: Downtown Brooklyn, organized by Open House New York. More than twenty sites are participating in the Open House event happening on June 23. A discussion about the change and transformation in the region featuring Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Regina Myer, FXCollaborative Design Director Gustavo Rodriguez and other industry leaders will take place at the ISSUE Project Room at 10:30 a.m., kicking off the day-long events. Downtown Brooklyn has undergone dramatic changes in the past two decades. It has now emerged as a new area for real estate and commercial development. The neighborhood is flooded with commercial creativity and upscale living. This event will offer an insider look at the transformed, up-and-coming district. Other participating sites include Brooklyn Strand Action Plan by WXY architecture + urban design, the New York Transit Museum, Polonsky Shakespeare Center and the Schermerhorn. The general public can purchase tickets to attend tours and panel discussions in those private buildings. Tickets can be purchased at this link.
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No Man's Land

Look inside the new Brooklyn outpost of The Wing, a women-only co-working network
Co-working network The Wing has opened the doors of its DUMBO, Brooklyn location, the first outside of Manhattan, and members can expect to find the company’s signature pastel pink hues, color-coordinated bookshelves, and eclectic mix of materials in play here as well. Founded in 2016 by Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan, The Wing was envisioned as a series of members-only co-working and social clubs for women, and quickly hit $42 million in investments. While The Wing only opened its first office in October 2016 in the Flatiron neighborhood, the company has been eyeing a rapid expansion, especially after competing co-working company WeWork contributed to its latest funding round. “Expanding to Brooklyn was a no-brainer for The Wing,” said Gelman in a statement sent to AN. “A third of The Wing’s current members call Brooklyn home, and it is consistently one of the most requested locations. We are excited to welcome new women into The Wing’s community and continue the company’s growth.” The Brooklyn branch is housed at 1 Main Street, the neighborhood’s former tape factory and home of the notorious Clock Tower penthouse. Keeping true to the building’s industrial past, architect Alda Ly and interior designer Chiara de Rege have stripped the ground floor space to its bare bones and left the columns, beams and ductwork exposed, and poured pink concrete for a distinctive flourish. The former factory also provided space for a double-height central atrium, and the duo used the opportunity to carve out a second-level balcony space. De Rege has said that utility and beauty don’t always go hand-in-hand, but despite being completely open, The Wing DUMBO uses the seemingly-eclectic interior finishes to break up the club’s different areas. While a pink granite dining table in the atrium draws attention as a central meeting place, the green velvet of the nearby conversation pit easily separates it from the subdued palette of the rest of the space. Color was a major component of the design, and the blues, golds and pinks set the plush interiors apart from the stoic wood-and-glass aesthetic of The Wing’s competitors. The café areas are marked by their thinner, more finely detailed chairs and pedestal tables, but the color-coded library is instantly recognizable as such by the assortment of plush and rounded couches. That lending library, curated in partnership with New York’s Strand Bookstore, contains over 2,000 books by women authors, and each bookshelf swings open to reveal soundproof phone booths. The partnerships don’t stop with The Strand. All of the featured art is curated by and features solely local women artists, The Wing’s café and bar, The Perch, serves food from women-owned partners, and copies of No Man’s Land, an-house magazine launched last fall, are available throughout. A podcast room, vintage photo booth, meditation room and shower are all open for members, but The Wing has opened its reception and retail sections on the ground floor to the public. The DUMBO office might have opened on February 26th, but if you want to join, you’ll have to wait your turn; the waitlist to become a member is at 13,000 names and growing. The company's fourth location will be opening in Washington, D.C. sometime this spring.
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Train Talk

Here are key takeaways for architects from Cuomo's 2018 State of the State address
If everything goes according to the governor's plan, New York City could get a new subway line to Brooklyn, and a new park in Jamaica Bay. Today New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined plans for 2018 and beyond in his State of the State address. Over the course of 92 minutes, the 56th governor of New York unspooled a long list of major projects and new investments, many of which could shape the cities we live in, change how commuters get to work, and add to what we see when we step away from the city outdoors. Citing the Red Hook waterfront's "untapped potential," the governor wants to study the possibility of a subway from Red Hook, Brooklyn to lower Manhattan. Red Hook, a low-slung, low-lying, largely low-income waterside neighborhood, still hosts shipping operations, but in the past two decades, artists and other creative types have flocked to the area and opened up restaurants, galleries, and interesting shops—with chains like IKEA and Fairway fronting the harbor. Despite the influx of new residents and businesses, the neighborhood has remained relatively sedate, in part because it's so hard to get to by public transportation. To spur growth, Governor Cuomo is asking the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to improve transit access by relocating the shipping industry industry. The move, Cuomo said, will revert the waterfront to "more productive community uses" that could enable the MTA to add an underwater subway tunnel to lower Manhattan. The Port Authority would have to move the 80-acre Red Hook Container Terminal about two miles south to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. In 2012, the port handled only 110,000 containers annually, a paltry load compared to the three million containers processed by nearby ports. While the terminal provides roughly 100 jobs, it has been operating at a loss since the mid-1990s. As recently as last year, though, the Port Authority said it did not have plans to develop or sell the site. Politico noted the Red Hook plans bear strong resemblance to a study AECOM produced on South Brooklyn that proposed a 1 train extension to Red Hook. AECOM executive Chris Ward was the Port Authority executive director, but quit in 2011 due in part to his fraught relationship with Cuomo, who was sworn in that year.

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The new subway tunnel wasn't the only one on the governor's mind. Cuomo floated a tunnel for vehicles under the Long Island Sound to connect Long Island with Westchester County or Connecticut. He also pledged to accelerate the L.I.R.R. modernization project, announcing the state would kick $6.6 billion towards adding new rail lines and fixing up stations up and down Nassau and Suffolk counties. All of those L.I.R.R. trains terminate at the beleaguered Penn Station. The governor didn't hesitate to fire shots at the busiest—and arguably most miserable—transit depot in the U.S. "I call it the seven levels of catacombs," he said. Cuomo emphasized the need to rebuild Penn Station, citing ongoing construction on the conversion of the James A. Farley Post Office into the Moynihan Train Hall as one way to relieve capacity on the overburdened station, which receives trains from New Jersey and Long Island. He even invoked the state's ability to seize land for public projects via eminent domain, a veiled shot at Madison Square Garden, the arena and venue across from Penn Station that some experts say should be converted to transit uses only. The subways were another hot spot in the speech. The governor proclaimed funding to fix the broken-down subway system must be provided "this session." His comments on funding follow a New York Times investigation on the subways' performance that revealed political indifference at the state and local level prompted overspending on splashy new projects at the expense of routine maintenance. "We can't leave our riders stranded anymore, period," he said.

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The governor also touched on another controversial project only a few blocks away. Late last year, stakeholders reached a compromise on the lawsuit-plagued Thomas Heatherwick–designed Pier 55 in Hudson River Park on Manhattan's West Side, and plans for the development are moving forward. Cuomo said a full completion plan for Hudson River Park, which will stretch from West 59th Street to Battery Park City, will roll out this year. Cuomo also unveiled the third round of investments in the New York State downtowns. First introduced in 2016, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative gives select cities and towns all over the state and gives them $10 million apiece to invest in their core commercial districts. This latest round allocates $100 million for development, and the Regional Economic Development Councils will select the cities. There were some curveballs, too. The governor revealed plans for a new, 407-acre state park on Jamaica Bay, a wetland estuary which sits between Brooklyn and Queens. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reached out to the governor's office for comment on the park but has not yet heard back.
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Model-Mania

Inside Gulliver's Gate: New York's model-making treasure trove
I put an oversized plastic key into an illuminated lock, turned it, and out popped Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace. Another lock summoned Scotland's Loch Ness Monster and another sent a helicopter flying above New York City's skyline. Where was I? Gulliver's Gate. Inside the former New York Times office building, there's some large-scale small-scale building going on. Today, Gulliver's Gate opened its doors to the public, unveiling a $40 million new tourist attraction to Times Square. On show is a 50-nation display with 300 small-scale scenes, covering more than 6,500 square foot. The first location visitors encounter after receiving their own key at the ground-floor reception is a miniature Manhattan. The model was made in Brooklyn by a team of 16 who took 358 days to craft the 950-square-foot scene. The almost year-long effort, though, was worth it. Details down to vases for bars and free standing coffee machines can be seen if you look close enough, meanwhile, New York's skyscrapers, truncated by the ceiling, are exhibited as light forms. "These are an interpretation, New York is a city of light," a spokesperson told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) at the opening ceremony. Additionally, visitors can see a myriad of dramas (almost all transport-based) played out on New York's down-sized streets: from an overturned flatbed truck to fire engines rescuing people stranded on rooftops. These scenes are static, though the overall experience is kinetic and interactive. A section of Manhattan cuts through Grand Central Station, highlighting the station's ornate interior complete with its signature ceiling. Below, the story continues as Amtrack and MTA Subway trains pass underneath, travelling surprisingly freely without interference of train traffic or other bizarre disturbances. The selling point (or rather, key to success) for Gulliver's Gate, however, is its interactivity—an unusual quality for a miniature model exhibition, where typically no touching is ever allowed. Of course, the same applies here, but to quell the thirst of your inner five-year-old yearning to play, keys handed out to each visitor allow you call all sorts of moving diorama's into action. Sadly (though probably for the best) the moving trains, cars, and boats are not controllable. New York City may be the first location visitors see, but it is certainly not the only one on display. The Middle East, mainland Europe, Britain, Niagara, Russia, South America and Asia all feature, boasting their most iconic architecture. OMA, I.M. Pei, Moshe Safdie, Daniel Libeskind, Santiago Calatrava, Bjarke Ingels, Pelli Clarke Pelli, Frank Gehry, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Gensler just to name a few, all have their buildings on display at 1:87 scale. An odd number, the scale is used in conjunction with the H0 Gauge model railroad locomotives on display—the gauge (gap between the tracks) is per the standards set by the National Model Railroad Association. The only location not to adhere to this is Britain, where the standard scale is 1:76, a scale that works with the established 00 Gauge for railroad models and thus British model railroad accessories. There are more than 1,000 trains on show, not to mention 10,000 cars and trucks and roughly 100,000 people. At the grand opening, AN spoke to Head of Model-Making, Adrian Davies. Davies, from England, was working on a scale airplane, but took the time to explain that he and his team of 20 are continuing to build despite today's opening. He also said that models were made using architects' plans as well as photography and "lots of Google Earth." Unlike other miniature model mega-exhibitions, Gulliver's Gate is proudly a work in progress. Such openness is usually only reserved for traveling railroad model exhibits, where community emerges from informality as enthusiasts flaunt their back-of-house rolling stock. Lighting and other electrics are managed by a nuclear-style control system, the operation of which is on view to the public. An airport scene, designed in collaboration with Ben Krone of Gradient Architecture, is in the works and can also be seen. Africa and Mars too, staff told AN, are being built, but are currently hidden away. Visitors can also make their own models... of themselves. A full-body scanner and 3-D printer allow you to create miniature versions of yourself which you can either take home or leave behind as a permanent “model citizen” of Gulliver’s Gate. Gulliver's Gate can be found at 216 West 44th Street and is open from 10 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. every day (last entry at 9:30 p.m.).
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Book it to Brooklyn

Claire Weisz on WXY's reimagining of the Brooklyn Strand

From a pedestrian perspective, Downtown Brooklyn and its waterfront have an odd relationship. Despite the Brooklyn Bridge’s looming (literally) presence in DUMBO, the area’s potential to become an idyllic promenade and an active space has never quite been realized.

Now, however, New York practice WXY architecture + design—who specializes in planning, urban design, and architecture–is proposing to connect DUMBO, Downtown, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. As part of a public-private scheme, in collaboration with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), WXY’s project, the Strand, sets about creating views within the site, giving it an identity while creating a place that puts pedestrians first.

WXY principal Claire Weisz said that the first thing her practice sought to do was to see what connections needed to be reestablished with a focus on who they should serve. “One of the main priorities of the Strand effort is to privilege pedestrians and cyclists,” said Weisz. “We [looked] at what spaces used to connect and then we sought a way to reimagine and provide resources to the public spaces and places that are valued by the people living, working, and studying in this area.”

Striking a dialogue and creating a “positive sense of journey” was another key aspect of the scheme. Working with Copenhagen artist group Superflex, a responsive and pedestrian friendly scene was established: Here, functional, yet visually inspiring routes were developed, evoking the cultural and historical aspects of the area’s neighborhoods from Fulton to Farragut and the Navy Yard.

Weisz also spoke of new subway connections and the potential to develop sites around infrastructure, adding how the Gateway to Brooklyn action plan concept “demonstrated the importance of approaching access holistically.” In light of this, Weisz proposed connecting Cadman Plaza East with the walkway off the Brooklyn Bridge, thus protecting pedestrians who “have to dodge traffic at Cadman Plaza West.”

Weisz noted how the dominance of car travel has led to the emergence of “unappealing leftover public space.” Here, she explained, a “continuous city fabric where walkable, bike-able, active streets connect Downtown Brooklyn to the Waterfront” is a necessity from an infrastructure perspective.

While improved circulation is a priority, visual connectivity is also on the agenda. Weisz plans to give landmarks visual precedence to celebrate Brooklyn’s history and improve wayfinding throughout the Strand. As a result, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges are allocated framed views from within the Cadman Plaza Park, Anchorage Plaza, and Trinity Park, in order to reaffirm the sense of place throughout the Strand.

“The Strand’s identity is linked to not losing the layers of history that made Brooklyn what it is today but adapting them for today’s needs,” said Weisz, who added that creating a “cohesive” identity was discussed with stakeholders.

“The main challenge of the Strand has been demonstrating the potential of spaces that are currently invisible to the public,” said Weisz. “Whether it be spaces around, over, or under highways [or] a new vantage for accessing and experiencing the Brooklyn Bridge, residents can look forward to a rejuvenated place that realizes the potential for the Strand to better connect downtown Brooklyn.”

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Strand Plan

New renderings, community vision revealed for WXY–designed Brooklyn Strand
Today, 40 stakeholders released the Brooklyn Strand Community Vision Plan, a set of recommendations for developing almost 50 acres of public space that links the Brooklyn Bridge to Downtown Brooklyn. The plan focuses on broadening connectivity along the corridor by making the space more attractive and pedestrian-friendly, and improving access to the waterfront between the Navy Yard, DUMBO, and Downtown Brooklyn. In 2014, Mayor de Blasio announced a set of plans to further catalyze the growth of downtown Brooklyn. One of these plans was the Brooklyn Strand, now a disjointed set of parks, greenways, and plazas bisected by highway feeder ramps that present wayfinding challenges even to seasoned New Yorkers. Since then, New York–based WXY Architecture + Urban Design has led not-for-profit local development corporation Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Transportation, and over 250 community stakeholders through an intensive planning process to re-vision the Strand. Recommendations from the just-released community vision include enhancing non-car links between Borough Hall Park, Columbus Park, Korean War Veterans Memorial Plaza, Cadman Plaza, Commodore Barry Park, the Bridge Parks, and Trinity Park; a "Gateway to Brooklyn" adjacent to Brooklyn Bridge Park with a viewing platform; creating a permanent market at Anchorage Plaza; reopening the long-shuttered Brooklyn War Memorial to the public; broadening access to Commodore Barry Park; widening sidewalks; installing public art to animate under-utilized public space; realign Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) ramps to make the pedestrian experience less alienating. “The Brooklyn Strand Community Vision Plan is an exciting and ambitious effort to reconnect Downtown Brooklyn’s historic neighborhoods to each other, reinvigorate open space and improve access to the waterfront,” proclaimed New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) president Maria Torres-Springer. “The Plan is the result of an extensive and collaborative community engagement process, and it provides a promising roadmap to the future for this historic business district. At NYCEDC, we look forward to continuing our work with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, community stakeholders and elected leaders, and to making the reinvigoration of the Brooklyn Strand a reality.”
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Downtown Brooklyn Partnership releases new report on robust development in Downtown Brooklyn
On its tenth anniversary, the local nonprofit development corporation Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has released a report that details just how well the development of downtown Brooklyn is going. Downtown Rising: How Brooklyn became a model for urban development demonstrates how, since its 2004 rezoning, private investors have put more than $10 billion into Downtown Brooklyn. The report was commissioned by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and produced by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy at NYU. “Downtown Brooklyn has harnessed its determined capacity for creative change to undergo a true rebirth over the past decade,” said Tucker Reed, president of the Partnership. “This report demonstrates just how far strong civic leadership can go when it’s bolstered by smart public investment, and provides the first definitive account of how we came so far, so fast—and where we need to go from here.” At a panel hosted at NYU and moderated by Professor of Urban Policy and Planning Mitchell L. Moss last week, Reed, Joe Chan (executive vice president, Empire State Development Corporation), Regina Myer (president, Brooklyn Bridge Park), and Hugh O'Neill (president of economic consulting firm Appleseed) discussed the report and next steps for downtown Brooklyn. Since the creation of a central business district in the Group of 35 report, Downtown Brooklyn has transformed itself into a tech hub, a center of arts and culture, a nexus of higher education. Between 2000 and 2013, the district's population grew by 17 percent. The number of residents with a bachelor's degree nearly doubled, and median household income grew by 22 percent. Reed mentioned that, as part of its community development goals, the Partnership "is working on workforce development" to close a skills and opportunity gap among residents without a college degree. The report has five recommendations for continued growth which center on clearing barriers for development through incentives and flexible zoning, as well as greater investment in transportation, the arts, and public space:
  1. Downtown Brooklyn and the city should ensure that innovative new companies have room to grow through increased—and targeted—commercial office space investment.
  2. The city should learn from the 2004 rezoning of the area, which allowed flexible permissive zoning and land use policies and resulted in a surge in development. The city should avoid trying to achieve narrowly defined policy objectives by enacting overly detailed zoning restrictions and prescriptions.
  3. The city should continue to invest in innovative public space improvements, such as the Brooklyn Strand initiative and completion of Brooklyn Bridge Park, that make Downtown Brooklyn a more attractive place to live, work, invest, do business, and visit.
  4. Developers and property owners, non-profit organizations, and the city need to work together to ensure that cultural institutions, arts organizations, and individual artists can continue to play a vital role in the ongoing transformation of Downtown Brooklyn.
  5. The city needs to address long-standing gaps in the area’s transportation networks, including lack of transit access to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, difficulties in getting between the core of Downtown Brooklyn and the waterfront, and the scarcity of good options for travel between existing and new waterfront neighborhoods and growing concentrations of jobs along the East River.
What do you think: Will these strategies keep the neighborhood on its upward development trajectory, or is the celebratory document failing to consider downsides like the loss of affordable housing and the decimation of independent retail on Fulton Street?
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Toshiko Mori–designed contemporary art museum to open in seaside Maine town this summer
Each August, hoards of crustacean-aficionados descend on Rockport for the town's famous Maine Lobster Festival. You can do like David Foster Wallace, but why not head north to neighboring Rockland a little earlier to catch the opening of the Toshiko Mori–designed Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA)? The former chair of the Department of Architecture at Harvard GSD was tapped to design the CMCA's new home three years ago. Although Mori has designed for museums (including a 7,300-square-foot canopy at the Brooklyn Children's Museum) before, this is her first full-scale museum commission. The 11,500-square-foot building's wall-to-wall glass and corrugated metal exterior is designed to optimize Maine's "legendary light." In addition to 5,500 square feet of gallery space, the structure features an ArtLab and a 2,200-square-foot public courtyard. Currently under construction, the museum is slated to open on June 26, 2016. Founded in 1952 as an artists' cooperative, CMCA eschews a permanent collection in favor of providing a forum for living artists with ties to Maine to display their work. The museum operated out of a downtown fire station livery stable for fifty years as Maine Coast Artists before the museum assumed its current name and program under former director Mildred Cummings. Despite (or in spite of) its distance from major population centers and small size, Rockland is an arts hub: CMCA is across the street from the Farnsworth Art Museum, another art museum dedicated to Maine, and adjacent to the historic venue Strand Theatre.
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Under budget pressures, WXY reveals new ideas for long shuttered Brooklyn War Memorial
The band Barenaked Ladies famously speculated on what a million dollars could buy: a little tiny fridge filled with pre-wrapped sausages, K-cars, a woman's eternal, undying love, or fancy ketchups.  Well, this isn't the nineties anymore, and, as community leaders in Brooklyn are learning, seven figures will not be nearly enough to renovate and preserve the Brooklyn War Memorial. New York's WXY, lead consultants on the 2014's Brooklyn Strand and 2013's Brooklyn Tech Triangle master plan, led the design team and facilitated community visioning sessions for the memorial. The memorial renovation is a component of the "Brooklyn Strand," a project to unify the patchwork of parks, plazas, and green spaces between Brooklyn Bridge Park and Borough Hall. This month, the Mayor's Office released The Brooklyn War Memorial Feasibility Study to delineate proposed changes to the area. Spearheaded by the Cadman Park Conservancy, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, and the Borough President Eric Adams, community leaders are looking to raise $11.8 million by 2019 for the renovation. Adams has allocated $1 million to the project, but other politicians, businesses, and foundations will need to come forward with the difference. Though the memorial, in Cadman Plaza Park, sits near eight subway lines, is proximate to a year-round farmer's market, and is often surrounded by lunching office workers, its prime location has not helped with fundraising. So far, the conservancy has received a paltry $4,060 through a May crowdfunding campaign. WXY facilitated workshops with residents and community groups to generate ideas for the memorial and surrounding park space. Designed by New York's Eggers and Higgins and dedicated in 1951, the memorial honors the 300,000 Brooklynites who served in World War II. Due to lack of maintenance funds, the site has been closed to the public for the past quarter century. Currently, the memorial building contains offices and storage on the lower level, while the primary attraction, a Wall of Honor that displays the names of more than 11,500 borough residents killed in battle, occupies the main floor. The renovation of the 33,660-square-foot space would add a visitor's center, exhibition hall, and cafe to the lower level, and a rooftop terrace that can be rented out for events. Gentle slopes will flank the entrance, inviting Strand strollers to linger around the memorial. An ADA compliant entrance ramp at the main level and elevator are planned, as well.
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Strolling the Strand
Among the recommendations of the Brooklyn Strand concept is a market beneath the Brooklyn Bridge viaduct.
Courtesy WXY

For most of the last century, Downtown Brooklyn’s streets have formed a tangled knot that has confounded urban planners. Urban renewal beginning in the 1930s ripped out vast swaths of the borough’s urban fabric, putting back disconnected parks and plazas. Highway building campaigns tore at the street grid and ramps to the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges complicate access to and from the waterfront.

In the summer of 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined a series of initiatives aimed at positioning the borough’s civic core as a technology hub called the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. Part of that plan—redeveloping a 21-acre expanse of parkland called the Brooklyn Strand—has come into focus with a new concept plan by WXY Architecture + Urban Design that gives shape to the community’s recommendations from more than 40 stakeholder groups and nearly a year’s worth of public input.

 
A parking lot at Borough Hall would be replaced by a retail pavilion with a park-like green roof (left). Existing structures in Cadman Plaza would be repurposed for education and retail (right).
 

The Strand links together a series of disconnected and underutilized green spaces to form two unified corridors—the Cadman Connector and the BQE Connector—between Downtown Brooklyn and the waterfront in DUMBO, creating safe and visually appealing streetscapes and parks from the heavy-handed planning mistakes of the 20th century.

“We want to rectify the mistakes of urban renewal,” WXY principal Claire Weisz told Curbed after a recent community board meeting. “We want to create a sense of identity for the Strand so it doesn’t feel like no man’s land. There are many opportunities to reimagine streets… And that would become the brand of the Brooklyn Strand.”

Redesigning streets around Borough Hall would bolster pedestrian and cyclist safety while adding new park space. One idea calls for burying a parking lot to create new park space on the surface. The ground plane rises up to form a retail space with an occupiable roof above. The design pedestrianizes the narrow Cadman Plaza West, bringing in a new streetscape and porous edges to the Korean War Memorial Plaza and the new Brooklyn Public Library designed by Marvel Architects.

The Brooklyn Strand concept calls for better connectivity between Downtown Brooklyn beginning at Borough Hall and the DUMBO waterfront.
 

In Cadman Plaza, significant renovations to another War Memorial creates a glassy learning center, overcoming accessibility challenges with a carved out entry plane incorporated into the landscape. At the tip of Cadman Plaza, dramatic earthworks create the “Brooklyn Eye” overlook space with dramatic vistas of the Brooklyn Bridge.

   
Left to right: The Brooklyn Strand would provide a unified landscape plan for a number of disconnected green spaces; An elevated berm would provide vistas of the Brooklyn Bridge; new streetscapes in Downtown Brooklyn would make the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly.
 

Where the grid erodes at the foot of the bridge, the Strand improves pedestrian flow to and from the waterfront with lighting and new retail at underpasses. A signature open market occupies space beneath the bridge viaduct’s enormous stone archways. These pedestrian corridors weave through small remnant spaces to create a legible path between the bridges. Five major new bike lanes are proposed, including implementing key portions of the Brooklyn Bridge Gateway Area Plan to remake bike lanes along Tillary Street.

In April, the plan’s BQE Connector portion will begin a round of community engagement initiatives with arts group Superflex, including public art installations. Before the larger plan can be implemented, however, the Strand must run a gauntlet of approvals from various city agencies and raise significant funds.

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Mayor de Blasio Goes All In on Urbanism in Downtown Brooklyn
In the decade since it was rezoned, Downtown Brooklyn has grown up in a big way. Just look at its skyline and the new apartment towers and hotels that call it home. The open air between those buildings will soon be filled because development isn't slowing down—it's just getting started. But the next decade of change in Downtown Brooklyn could offer much more than the first. That's because as new buildings rose, the area’s street-level never kept pace: public space is still scarce and underused, streets are hard to navigate and dangerous, and educational and cultural institutions have been disconnected. Today, however, Mayor de Blasio announced strategies to change all that by injecting the booming district with new (or refurbished) parks, redesigned streetscapes, new retail, and better connections between its many cultural and educational institutions. These investments could be transformative in their own right, but are especially notable given Mayor de Blasio’s hesitancy to talk about the importance of urban design. To be clear, New York City’s commitment to safe, livable streets did not die when Mayor Bloomberg walked out the door. In de Blasio's New York, there have been new bike lanes and the like, but the mayor doesn't speak about these issues with the force of his predecessor. That seemed to change today as this plan goes all in on urbanism. “This is one of the city’s great success stories, and we have an incredible opportunity to take these stunning communities, parks, and institutions and knit them together,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “The investments we are making will help Downtown Brooklyn continue its rise, generate good jobs, and make this a more dynamic neighborhood to live and work.” The plan starts where Downtown Brooklyn starts—at the mouth of the Brooklyn Bridge. The City plans to transform the 21-acre patchwork of underused parks and public plazas between the bridge and Borough Hall into a “great promenade and gateway into Brooklyn.” The renovated space, known as the "Brooklyn Strand," will be designed to better connect with the area's transit hubs and the celebrated Brooklyn Bridge Park, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. This strategy follows a study commissioned by the Brooklyn Tech Triangle - a cluster of tech companies in Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and DUMBO. It was led by WXY. While not mentioned explicitly, Vision Zero factors into this plan though the City's strategies to make certain corridors more bike and pedestrian friendly. This includes a multi-million dollar transformation of the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge—a plan that was conceived under Bloomberg and is slated to break ground next year. Over on Willoughby Street, the City will "explore non-traditional roadway design that recognizes and accommodates the heavy use of the area by pedestrians." ARUP is working with the city on that redesign. The City has also pledged to build a new one-acre public park in Downtown Brooklyn and refurbish two others—Fox Square and BAM Park. The latter has been closed to the public for decades, but will be spruced up by WXY. Fox Square will be renewed by AKRF, with Mathews Nielsen. To boost business in Downtown Brooklyn, the City will offer-up some of its own ground-floor space to retail tenants. It may also consolidate its 1.4 million square feet to provide affordable office space for businesses. And there are plans to launch a consortium between Downtown Brooklyn’s 11 colleges to “better connect the tech, creative, and academic communities.” This is intended to best prepare students for jobs at Brooklyn’s Tech Triangle. The Economic Development Corporation will provide $200,000 in seed funding to kickstart that initiative. As part of this plan, the emerging Brooklyn Cultural District, which straddles the blurry border between Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene, could get its very own Businesses Improvement District (BID). The City said it will work with the over 60 cultural groups in the district to market the area as a preeminent cultural hub. Of course, at this point, these are all fairly vague proposals—just ideas on paper unbound by hard deadlines. But this announcement shows that as Downtown Brooklyn builds toward the sky, the City will refocus on the people walking, biking, studying, and working on the streets below.