Not long ago, you couldn’t be faulted for confusing the asphalt-covered Bridge Park II for an empty parking lot. But last week, a large-scale activity mural began taking shape at the site, and at the nearby Bridge Park 3.
Regardless of the new paint, a controversy over who is responsible for larger fixes at the park has only just begun.
The asphalt expanse gets a makeover.
When workers were spotted painting large-scale designs on the Bridge Park tarmac last week, a few locals wondered if a recent kerfuffle had inspired the Jehovah’s Witnesses to fulfill a decade-old deal for fixing up the site.
But the improvements are the work of the Dumbo Improvement District, which hopes to turn the two parks into a livelier area with the graphics. The designs are a temporary exercise installation called the Dumbo Fitness Loop.
The surface graphics are instructional workout signs designed pro bono by the Dumbo-based firm Hush. They are meant to inspire physical activity.
“Given the attention on the sale of 85 Jay across the street and the push by our community and the elected officials to finally get the Jehovahs to make good on their promise to rebuild this park, the timing of this installation couldn’t be better,” Alexandria Sica, Executive Director of the Dumbo Improvement District, told Brownstoner.
A controversial promise to fix up Bridge Park II.
In 2004, the Jehovah’s Witnesses — a Brooklyn-based religious organization with millions of followers around the globe — decided to build a new world headquarters near the Bridge parks at 85 Jay Street. In exchange for a controversial upzoning of 85 Jay, the Witnesses agreed to fix up Bridge Park II and the subway station nearby.
But for more than a decade, the park remained untouched and unimproved. The Witnesses abandoned plans for building at the Dumbo site and started to relocate operations upstate. The parks agreement was forgotten.
Only when the Witnesses put the highly valuable development site at 85 Jay Street on the market in December did former City Council Member David Yassky recall the forgotten promise and ask for it to be fulfilled.
Last week, a group of politicians and local figures echoed Yassky’s plea, sending the Witnesses a letter requesting the parks be repaired.
Room for improvement.
Richard Devine, spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, told the New York Times that the organization is still committed to revitalizing the park. Even with the added mural, much more could be done.
As Alexandria Sica told Brownstoner, “These are huge spaces — essentially left behind from the days of Robert Moses — and they’ve got so much potential as neighborhood parks. We wanted to get people talking about them and thinking about them in a whole new light.”
The Massive Development Site at 85 Jay Street Will Utterly Transform Dumbo
Are the Witnesses Cashing In on a Broken Promise to Fix Dumbo Subway Stop and Park?
Brooklyn Politicians Pen Letter to Witnesses Calling for Local Improvements