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December 19, 2012
by Rick Bell FAIA Executive Director AIA New York

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg opens the playing fields at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Rick Bell, FAIA

Soccer players on the field.

Rick Bell, FAIA

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg led a team of elected and appointed officials along with members of the Red Bull professional soccer organization to open the first active recreation component of Brooklyn Bridge Park. The mayor greeted the large crowd of spectators and reporters on hand for what he called a “good news” event on Thursday, December 13. “Where were you for the 16-ounce cup announcement?” he asked those assembled.

Newly created are three multi-purpose sports fields on a former shipping pier, bordered by evocative “shade sails” and what is being called a “picnic peninsula.” Pier 5 offers soccer players, joggers, picnic-makers, and everyone else superb views of the harbor, Governors Island, and the Manhattan skyline. Designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the renovated pier adds five acres of usable space to the 1.3-mile-long, 85-acre sustainable waterfront park. The synthetic turf fields are supported by shock pads and an organic infill made of sand and coconut fibers. Mayor Bloomberg noted that Pier 5 was “designed to withstand major weather events.” Despite being inundated by Superstorm Sandy, the fields opened for play on December 13, with only the electrical equipment needed for evening-use lighting requiring some additional repair work.

Nancy Webster, executive director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, spoke of the extraordinary leadership of Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, who “taught us how to fashion a world-class park.” She also praised Brooklyn Bridge Park President Regina Myer and the BBP staff, saying, “you’re the ones who keep the ball in play.”

Myer remarked on the “truly momentous occasion” of the opening of this part of a park that is “a lush vision and a welcoming waterfront for everyone.” She spoke, as well, of how the design team had addressed the challenges of connecting to the upland community, and the imminent opening of the Squibb Park Bridge, designed by HNTB, helping to do so.

New York State Assemblymember Joan Millman spoke of the active design program for Pier 5, saying that the new fields “would go a long way to fighting obesity.” Putting the park in context as a destination for both New Yorkers and visitors, Mayor Bloomberg said that “we have to work very hard to stay in competition with other cities for tourists.”

The last speaker before the mayoral Q&A was Jérôme de Bontin, the general manager of the New York Red Bulls. He spoke of how heartening it was to see the creation of facilities to be used for the sport that “I’ve loved all my life.” But, he added, “at the end of the day, soccer is more than goals, wins, and losses; it is about hard work, teamwork, integrity, sportsmanship, a healthy life style, and having fun.”

Mayor Bloomberg, taking questions about the park, was also asked about the plans for citywide reconstruction post-Sandy, and in particular, his thoughts about sea walls. He concluded: “We’ve spent an awful lot of years trying to reconnect to the water. We’re not going to build barriers to separate us from it now.”

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