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Department of Parks & Recreation

Plaza Near Brooklyn Bridge to Become Sports and Rec Space

Paddle ball and a dog run might be coming to the Brooklyn Bridge soon.

12:03 AM EST on January 5, 2024

Photo: Kevin Duggan|

Anchorage Plaza at the Brooklyn Bridge along Old Fulton Street has been closed off for 15 years.

The city plans to reopen two football fields' worth of space at the Brooklyn Bridge in Downtown Brooklyn to the public for the first time in 15 years, and turn the former storage area and one-time art-space into a sports and recreation facility.

The Parks Department is looking for contractors to operate an outdoor activity center for up to six years on the nearly 100,000-square-foot, two lot Anchorage Plaza, which sandwiches the bridge at Old Fulton Street and Washington Street (including a connector beneath the bridge ramp colloquially called Ash Alley), according to a request for proposals [PDF] the agency released this week.

The plaza features two lots and a connector under the bridge known informally as Ash Alley. Graphic: NYC Parks

The RFP seeks concessionaires that can offer activities such as paddle ball, public art and performances, a dog run, food and drinks services, or up to three food trucks. 

The Department of Transportation has occupied the space since 2009, storing vehicles and equipment for construction and maintenance of the adjacent 140-year-old span, and residents of the waterfront area were excited that the space will return to the public once the agency vacates the premises.

“Anchorage Plaza is just such an eyesore and we’re thrilled if it could be used,” said Jimmy Ng, a member of the DUMBO Action Committee. “To see it empty with 10-12 trucks, but empty otherwise, is heartbreaking.”

DOT has used the space, seen here from Washington Street, to store trucks and equipment to maintain the bridge. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Parks honchos revealed last spring that the agency was looking to repurpose the Z-shaped parcel once DOT vacates the premises, and showed possible proposals, such as pickleball courts, a café and art gallery, flea markets and farmers markets, and micro-mobility parking and rentals, according to a presentation to Community Board 2 in June

A Parks rep told the civic board at the time that the agency's goal was to have the space open in 2024, depending on how much time the contractor needs to set up, but officials told Streetsblog it was too early to set a date.

"We're excited to see Anchorage Plaza reach its full potential as a vibrant public space, and we look forward to reviewing proposals to bring creative activations to this slice of Downtown Brooklyn," Parks spokesperson Chris Clark said in a statement.

Locals said they hope the new space will benefit residents and doesn’t simply draw more visitors to the neighborhood that's already swamped by tourists.

“DUMBO is one of the densest neighborhoods in the city,” Ng said. “An opening of even just half an acre is massive.”

The space used to house a public parking lot until 2009 on the Old Fulton Street side, and before that the caverns under the bridge hosted an annual art show for nearly two decades called “Art in the Anchorage,” which lasted from 1983 until 2001 when it ended due to alleged national security concerns

Anchorage Plaza used to be a paid parking lot, as seen here in April 2009. Photo: Google Street View

DOT has claimed the plots ever since, and the agency will still be allowed to get back in there after the space opens to the public, Parks officials told CB2 last summer. 

Transportation officials showed off their own snazzy proposals for a redesigned Anchorage Plaza earlier last year as part of the city’s plans to reconstruct the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which runs adjacent to the space.

DOT showed off its own renderings of a future Anchorage Plaza, but those plans are still years out ... if ever. Rendering: DOT

But the Parks plan is more of a temporary repurposing for a few years, an official told CB2 last summer, noting that any larger overhauls are still years out.

“There’s a big distance from the lip to the cup here, between whatever renderings are shown now [by DOT] and whatever ends up happening,” said David Cerron, Assistant Commissioner for Business Development and Special Events, told CB2’s Parks Committee on June 12. “We really are focused on the short term.” 

The fencing around the space will likely remain up, Cerron added, to keep people out when the space is closed overnight.

On the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge, advocates with the group Gotham Park have also been organizing to unlocking more space to the public around the foot of the bridge, which used to be a haven for skateboarders known as the Brooklyn Banks, starting with a pocket park that opened in May.

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