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.
Posts tagged with "Downtown Brooklyn":
Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects, a firm well-known for its sustainable modular buildings, and American Manufactured Structures and Services, have collaborated on the design of a prefabricated disaster relief housing prototype, which will be displayed in Downtown Brooklyn this summer, as part of an effort to help rebuild post-Hurricane Sandy with a focus on sustainability. The three-story, three-unit modular test structure will be situated next to the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) on Cadman Plaza. The ground floor will be a handicap-accessible 480-square-foot one-bedroom unit, and the upper two floors will consist of two separate 822-square-foot three-bedroom apartments. The preassembled and pre-furnished units will be 12-feet wide by 40-feet long. Once shipped to the site, they simply need to be clipped together and connected to utilities. They also feature balconies that help lower solar-heat gain, provide larger windows, and supply more habitable space. Garrison Architects principal Jim Garrison told the New York Post that the units can stand alone but are also “designed to operate as a row house and be deployed on a city block.” The prefab structures will cost about $1.14 million paid for by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and will include gardens in back and parking in front. They can be assembled to form a secure perimeter around an urban street and can be outfitted with photovoltaics to generate their own electricity. Garrison said that the design, which complies with all city codes, would eventually be utilized for high-density, four-story urban housing. OEM and the Department of Design and Construction have been working since the “What If NYC” design competition in 2008 to create a prototype for disaster housing. When Sandy hit four years later, nothing was prepared. Now, after the establishment of more detailed requirements for local codes, the project is ready to go. Construction is expected to begin soon and test residents will move in for several months to offer feedback on how the units work so the design can be modified. View more technical drawings of the structure here.
Downtown Brooklyn is growing at a fast pace, but it looks like transit is having trouble keeping up with the spike in population and increased congestion that has resulted from the Barclays Center and the onset of new commercial and residential developments. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, along with the help of Councilwoman Letitia James and local civic groups, have put together a report called “Brooklyn Gateway Transportation Vision,” which outlines a variety of transit problems and potential solutions, including: enhanced bus service, residential parking permits, congestion pricing, improved safety and access for pedestrians, and more cycling amenities such as a bike share program and parking.
The area around the Barclays Center, stretching from the commercial blocks of Flatbush to Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues, might soon be Brooklyn’s next Business Improvement District (BID). The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership announced in a press release yesterday that it has taken steps to organize a steering committee made up of local stakeholders to evaluate which BID services are needed. Property owners would pay an additional property tax to subsidize services such as streetscape improvements, maintenance, security, and programming. According to the Atlantic Yards Report, a BID would support Ratner’s "campaign to call the entire Atlantic Yards site part of Downtown Brooklyn." First the BID needs to go through several hearings and approvals by local community boards, the City Planning Commission and New York City Council before moving forward.
Downtown Brooklyn has an unusual situation on its hands: it has a surplus of parking spaces. But soon developers may get the green light to put that space to other use. As AN reported this summer, the city’s zoning rules require new residential developments to build large garages, most of which have remained half empty. With a plethora of transit options in the area—including 13 subway lines, seven subway stops, more than a dozen bus routes, and a commuter rail to boot—there is little demand for parking, which is why the Department of City Planning (DCP) and developers are advocating for new zoning. Yesterday the New York City Council considered a proposal from the DCP that suggests reducing the minimum parking requirements from 40 percent to 20 percent of new residential housing units, which would free up those spaces for other uses whether it be mixed-income and affordable housing or public parking. City Council will likely hold a vote on the proposal on December 4th.
Plans for the Hub, a 53-story tower planned for the ever-growing Downtown Brooklyn were released in February, but the Dattner-designed project comes into clearer focus when new views were revealed this month. Developed by the Steiner family, who is also building a 50-acre media hub/film studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the tower will house 720 apartments and 42,000 square feet of retail space and feature a large rooftop terrace and bike parking for each unit. Located at 333 Schermerhorn Street just blocks from the new Barclays Center, The Hub could measure up as Brooklyn's tallest when it's completed in 2014. [Via NY YIMBY and Dattner.]
Our friends over at Urban Omnibus created this delightful video entitled Archipelago, a sort of cinematic corollary to the current New New York show at the site's mothership, the Architectural League. Billed as "a day in the life of five New York neighborhoods: Hunts Point, Jamaica, Mariner’s Harbor, Downtown Brooklyn, and Chelsea," the video really is amazing for how it so succinctly captures the mind-boggling diversity of the city, revealing both the familiar and obscure to even the most stalwart local in a way so seamless that the city, for once, seems truly bound together despite all its disparity. The soundtrack alone, from Mr. Softee in the Bronx to freestyling on Staten Island to the constant sirens, is irresistible. It's the fastest eleven-and-a-half minutes you'll watch for some time. Almost as fast as the city it chronicles.