Each month, City Parks Alliance names one “Frontline Park” as a standout example of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship from across the country. The program identifies city parks that find innovative ways to meet the unique challenges faced as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures and urban neighborhood decay. In recognition of its innovative practices in partnerships and sustainable funding, Brooklyn Bridge Park has been named a Frontline Park.
Brooklyn Bridge Park is the product of more than 20 years of extensive community planning and advocacy. For years after shipping activity ceased at the piers, the land sat empty and was isolated from surrounding neighborhoods. Developing the site into a park was not straightforward or simple, given the waterfront location and proximity to a major highway. Planning and design was further complicated by the need to consider the integrity of the shoreline, and to ensure that the park could withstand major floods, storm surges, and any rise in sea level, which would drive up future maintenance costs. With a limited amount of public money available, other revenue streams would be necessary to ensure the park’s future viability.
Due to considerable future maintenance costs, one of the fundamental principles of the plan for Brooklyn Bridge Park was the requirement that the operations and maintenance budget be funded through revenues generated from within the project site. To accomplish this, the City of New York sought permission to redirect real estate taxes from residential and commercial developments in the project zone, which has effectively created a self-sustaining revenue stream that is far less dependent on concessions and permits for special events than comparable signature parks in other major cities.
When the first sections opened in 2010, the park’s impact was felt immediately. Thousands of visitors flocked to the park to picnic, walk their dogs, roller skate, bike, or to enjoy the view. The park has had a steady increase in visitors each year, and as new phases open, more opportunities for programming and recreation in the park will be offered. Further, the park’s self-sustaining financial model for long-term maintenance is being successfully executed.