Is the string of East River piers that make up Brooklyn Bridge Park supposed to be an engaging environment that people can actively enjoy, or is it an aesthetic transformation of Brooklyn's waterfront from commercial workspace to an urban idyll? Unsurprisingly, people are fighting over that question, and the debate is weighted by the fact that upkeep for the space will be funded by property owners who purchase residences that will essentially feature Brooklyn Bridge Park as their front yard.
Matthew Urbanski, the landscape architect behind the current park plan that involves rolling hills and artificial wetlands told the Wall Street Journal, "We've created a calm foreground that allows you to appreciate the sublime beauty of the industrial urban setting." Critics of Urbanski's "landscape urbanism" style, say that he is creating one of the deadest waterfronts ever designed by prioritizing aesthetics over the pragmatic need for park visitors to interact with each other and their environment.
Disagreement over the proper design and role of parks in New York is hardly new, and the fight over Brooklyn Bridge Park echoes many that were argued over Central Park in he 19th Century. Central Park's pastoral serenity and prohibition of organized sports was influenced by class-based differences of opinion on recreation and taste. It took almost 70 years before the first (Heckscher) playground was added to Central Park, and approximately 100 years for permanent ball fields to be installed on the Great Lawn.
· Conflict in Park Plans [WSJ]
· History of Central Park [CentralPark.org]
· Brooklyn Bridge Park coverage [Curbed]