Mayor Bill de Blasio last week announced a package of investments in Downtown Brooklyn aimed at bolstering the district as an economic, cultural and education hub.
Ten years after the area’s major rezoning, the administration is seeking to knit together Downtown Brooklyn’s parks, commercial strips and institutions.
Included in the package are redesigned street, opening the ground floors of city-owned buildings to retail development, opening new parks and improving existing ones, and collaborating with the area’s 11 major education institutions to position Downtown Brooklyn as a national leader in technology.
“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. 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,” said Mayor de Blasio.
Public Advocate Letitia James said, “Today we proudly announce a new wave of development meant to stimulate the growth of the Downtown Brooklyn commercial district. At the center of the revitalization is the restructuring of the ‘Brooklyn Strand’ — the parks, plazas and greenways between Borough Hall and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
“Furthermore, the city will soon unveil the long-awaited Brooklyn Cultural District BID, and will increase collaboration among Downtown Brooklyn’s higher education institutions to strengthen our creative and technological footprint. As we continue to develop Downtown Brooklyn, we remain committed to facilitating the creation of affordable housing, and ensuring that community voices remain heard throughout this process.”
Among the initiatives underway in Downtown Brooklyn are:
Reinventing the “Brooklyn Strand”: The key to connecting Downtown Brooklyn to its waterfront is the redevelopment of the 21-acre Brooklyn Strand. The series of disconnected parks, plazas and greenways between Borough Hall and Brooklyn Bridge Park have potential to become the great promenade and gateway to Brooklyn.
The City and Downtown Brooklyn Partnership are developing plans for new connections and improvements that will reinvent the linear park and help make Brooklyn Bridge Park truly accessible by creating a connection to major transit hubs in Downtown Brooklyn.
Launching the Brooklyn Cultural District BID: More than 60 cultural groups operate within the Brooklyn Cultural District. Small Business Services is working with local stakeholders and existing Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) to form and/or expand a BID to serve the Brooklyn Cultural District and market the area as a destination for theater, dance and the arts.
Leveraging City-owned buildings to spur more commercial activity: The City owns 1.4 million square feet of commercial space in Downtown Brooklyn, and is moving to redevelop ground-floors of its buildings for new retail tenants. The City is studying sites like 65 Court Street to determine what space can be consolidated or repurposed for commercial construction and affordable office space for job creating-firms in Brooklyn.
Making streets safer and more inviting: The City is working with local stakeholders on a new urban design strategy that overhauls the area’s most uninviting streets.
Jay Street will be redeveloped as a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly street; Tillary and Adams Streets are currently being redesigned by DOT and DDC as part of a capital reconstruction project. Construction is expected to begin in 2015 on relocating and rebuilding medians, installing and widening planted medians, sidewalk widening and new curb extensions;
Willoughby Street: DOT has initiated a planning and conceptual design effort focused on creating an improved streetscape and public realm on Willoughby and Pearl Streets. Assisting with this effort will be a consultant team led by Arup, an international engineering and design firm with experience designing shared street space right here in New York City.
Creating new parks and public spaces: The City is investing in three new ublic spaces that will be new focal points for the community:
Fox Square: This summer, new paving, landscaping, street furniture, lighting, and electrical infrastructure will be installed in a $1.4 million project due to be completed in early 2015;
Willoughby Square: The City is moving forward to build a new one-acre public space. Work began in earnest in recent weeks with the environmental remediation of buildings on the site now underway. In the coming year, the existing buildings will be demolished, and the overall project is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2016.
BAM Park will get a major facelift and reopen to the public. Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is working with the State to secure funding and has procured WXY to design a new public space.
The City is collaborating with the area’s educational institutions to develop a college consortium that will connect the tech, creative, and academic communities, preparing local students and local residents for good jobs in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. The City is catalyzing the effort with $200,000 in seed funding through its Economic Development Corporation.
Through a new City-backed internship program, CUNY students majoring in Computer Science and related tracks will be matched with companies in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. 50 college students from the New York City College of Technology are currently working in paid internships with companies in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. The interns work four days per week and on “Tech Fridays,” the interns attend professional development workshops and go on site visits to other local tech and media companies.