If you’ve ever wished you could dodge more cars and inhale more exhaust on your way to the park, Downtown Brooklyn’s next green space is for you. It will be built on top of a garage with nearly 700 underground parking spots.
Last Thursday, the city’s Economic Development Corporation released a request for proposals to build Willoughby Square Park, a new public space set to open on Willoughby between Duffield and Gold. Instead of using city funds to build the park, EDC is building 694 parking spaces underground and getting the garage’s developer to pay for the park construction.
City officials have repeatedly referred to the new public space as Brooklyn’s Bryant Park. Like Bryant Park, it will be privately run and surrounded by towers. But here’s one major difference: Bryant Park sits on top of the stacks of the New York Public Library, not an enormous garage. Two decades ago, the city was thinking creatively about how to combine an ambitious park restoration with the storage of 3.2 million books and 500,000 reels of microfilm. These days, the city seems intent on combining its development and public space plans with the storage of congestion-causing, streetlife-suffocating private vehicles, even in incredibly transit-rich downtown Brooklyn.
The merger of park and parking garage is no surprise in an EDC-sponsored project. The agency has recently been in the headlines for building so much parking at Yankee Stadium that the developer may default on its bonds, and EDC president Seth Pinsky once told Streetsblog that providing too little parking at a project would be “the worst thing we could do.” You can also point the finger at the Department of City Planning, which put forward the idea for a park over a garage in its 2004 rezoning.