Summer 2000, p.12

Celebrate More Park, Not More Parking

After much public deliberation, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation has released its draft of the Brooklyn Bridge Park master plan for public comment. T.A. shares the community's excitement that this long hoped-for park is finally coming to fruition. Unfortunately, the financially "self-sustaining" public-private partnership model promises more cars and traffic for Downtown Brooklyn. Current plans for the park, which will encompass 70 acres from the DUMBO area to piers one through five, include a 370-room hotel, a large public market, numerous restaurants, a Chelsea-Piers style recreational facility and approximately 1,500 parking spaces grouped around the site. Representatives from the Development Corporation assert that the park's annual upkeep bill, which is estimated at $7 million, demands these commercial endeavors. Furthermore, they contend that these businesses must have ample parking to succeed.

Regardless of whether the public/private partnership will work (and given the Chelsea Piers experience, there is good evidence to suggest that it will not), the decision to rely on auto-dependent businesses as revenue generators for the park is a big mistake; the move to encourage even more traffic in Downtown Brooklyn by expanding parking is an even bigger one. While some Downtown Brooklyn residents see the parking spaces as keeping park users from descending onto their neighborhood streets, the opposite will prove true. The parking will function as a further incentive for visitors to drive and will ensure the park is an automobile-oriented destination. More and more people will drive, and those who can't squeeze into the parking lot will spill onto residential streets.
While planners cite the experience of other mixed-use parks around the country, none are nearly as well-served by public transit as Downtown Brooklyn, or in such dense or park-starved environs. Rather than encouraging more traffic in the already auto-blasted Downtown Brooklyn, park planners should focus on sustainable development in character with the needs of the area and the park's role as a green space in a car-clogged city. This means strengthening links with existing transit and encouraging walking and cycling routes to the park. That approach would help make a truly world-class park.