Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation.
Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in and how did you end up there?
Regina Myer: I have lived in Park Slope since 1991–my family loves it and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. We ended up there after visiting friends — on the way back to Manhattan, we wondered out loud, “Why aren’t we moving to Brooklyn?”
BS: Can you quickly give us an update on all things Brooklyn Bridge Park? Where does the park stand right now?
RM: 2011 was a wonderful year for the park—we opened the park in Dumbo as well as Jane’s Carousel, which has already become a fantastic and beloved amenity. Summer programming was also great—in partnership with the Conservancy and others, there was a thorough range of activities from field tours, music, movies, science and chess. And we just installed our first temporary art in the park with Mark Di Suvero’s “Yoga” at Pier 1, a sublime sculpture which provides a terrific counterpoint to the beauty of the Bridge.
2012 is also going to be great. We have just begun construction of Pier 5 and the Squibb Park Bridge, two projects which will provide active playing fields, picnic areas and a direct connection to the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood and its subway stations. We also plan to select a developer for the Pier 1 Hotel and residential project, which will be a major milestone in solidifying the park’s financial plan.
After the jump, Regina talks about the balance between public and private, transforming underutilized open space and all her favorite spots in the borough.
BS: Were you at all surprised by anything as the park came together and the community interacted with it?
RM: All of us at Brooklyn Bridge Park have been thrilled at the public’s response to the park, but never surprised. The community residents knew that this waterfront was a fabulous location for a park, and they were entirely right. It is so gratifying to see how well used the park is, day or night, spring or fall, whether it’s Pier 1, Pier 6, the greenway or the Dumbo sections. Last summer, over 60,000 people visited over the course of the second week in July. The idea of “ownership” isn’t blurred at all, since the Park has been conceived, built and operated for the public and always will be. Another delight for me is seeing how well the park is treated by its visitors, who have been consistently careful in not littering and in recycling, which is the main reason the park looks so clean and inviting!
BS: With plans to develop the area around Pier 1, how best to balance private developments on public space?
RM: Having a self-sustaining park means that Brooklyn Bridge Park’s amenities, landscape and attractions will be well-maintained for generations to come. Right now we are evaluating competing proposals for a hotel and residential development on Pier 1 and essential to that evaluation is how the various options respond to the landscape and work with it. Everyone involved in the park’s development, from the founding community members to the builders, cherish the high standard that the park has become known for. It’s critical that the hotel and residential component echo this quality and work in harmony with it.
BS: There’s plenty of under-utilized space throughout Brooklyn. If a community wants to mobilize and create useable public space – from a community garden to a park – where should they start?
RM: So many great parks in New York were catalyzed by community action, so there’s a great tradition to build on. I think the first step is surveying your community to find where the opportunities are and then meeting with stakeholders to see where the potential really lies. It might not be immediately obvious. But a plan for open space always needs a plan for maintenance, so an effort needs to be made to see who will use the space and how it can kept active, clean and safe.
BS: Finally, your favorites: favorite BK neighborhood, favorite BK building or development, and favorite BK public space (not including BBP!)
That is a trick question for the former Brooklyn Planning director! So here goes:
Favorite BK neighborhood: Park Slope, there is no place like home!
Favorite BK “off the radar” neighborhood: Vinegar Hill
Favorite BK neighborhood rezoning: Greenpoint/Williamsburg
Favorite BK building – historic interior: Dime Savings Bank on the Fulton Mall- a true hidden treasure.
Favorite BK building- new construction: Steven Holl’s addition to the Pratt Institute campus
Favorite BK new development: The Edge in Williamsburg
Favorite BK park (except BBP!): Prospect Park, the one that started Brooklyn’s amazing park legacy – especially the Long Meadow and Rose Garden.
Favorite neighborhood park: Cobble Hill Park.