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Area beneath Brooklyn Bridge to reopen for sitting, skateboarding, pickleball

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Mayor Adams announced that a long-closed, 1-acre public space under the Brooklyn Bridge, sporting public seating and playing areas, will reopen Wed., May 24.

Dubbed “The Arches,” the space was cordoned off for more than a decade. It will now feature spots for basketball, pickleball, shuffleboard and publicly available seating, including chess tables, directly adjacent to the 53 historic arches on the bridge’s Manhattan side.

The Arches are located next to “Brooklyn Banks,” a former favorite stomping ground for high-flying skateboarders. According to Jenkem, a local skateboarding magazine, parts of the former Banks that will be reopening include the “Nine Stairs” and the spot where all the playing courts are slated to go. But the brickwork for the so-called “small banks” reportedly still needs to be redone.

The south side of “The Arches.”  The area is slated for pickleball and basketball but skateboarders are also eyeing it. (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

The renovation is part of a $375 million investment by the city in public spaces across the five boroughs. Locally, it’s also part of an effort to improve connectivity across Lower Manhattan, “serving as a 21st-century gateway between Chinatown, the Seaport District and the Financial District.”

“One hundred forty years ago, we opened the Brooklyn Bridge and connected two islands,” Adams said. “This is a landmark 1883 moment for our communities, our public spaces and our city’s recovery. These kinds of public spaces are a critical component of our administration’s strategy for an equitable, inclusive and prosperous economic recovery for New York City. And we are delivering on that strategy with a $375 million investment and now two new spaces for the Chinatown residents, the skateboarding community and all New Yorkers to enjoy.”

The area under the vehicle ramps has been closed for years but will now reopen. (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

With funding from the New York Department of State through its Downtown Revitalizing Initiative, the Adams administration will also work with the community to plan renovations to upgrade and expand public space at Chinatown’s Kimlau Square and to evaluate plans for Park Row from Kimlau Square to the Brooklyn Bridge.

The administration will also consider additional medium- and long-term improvements to the Brooklyn Banks site directly under the bridge. This engagement effort will include a virtual public workshop this spring with the Department of Transportation, the Parks Department and the New York Police Department.

“I am thrilled that The Arches are now open and ready to be enjoyed by New Yorkers and visitors alike,” said Ya-Ting Liu, the city’s chief officer of the Public Realm. “In an area where public space is limited, The Arches will serve as a crucial venue for residents to enjoy and for visitors to experience the beauty of the Brooklyn Bridge and the surrounding area. This project reflects the Adams administration’s commitment to equity — ensuring that members of the community have access to quality public spaces, which are essential for building strong and vibrant communities.”

The Arches will open as D.O.T. finishes a major project to rehabilitate the Brooklyn Bridge. The space underneath the bridge’s vehicle ramps has been largely closed to the public since 2010, when D.O.T. began its largest-ever rehabilitation of the historic bridge structure with three projects totaling $800 million.

The Brooklyn Bridge’s arches and stonework have been undergoing a major renovation. (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

The current bridge rehab project has included extensive cleaning of the bridge’s granite stones for the first time since its original construction, transforming them from a brown color — with more than a century’s worth of dust, soot and pollution — to their original, 19th-century bright gray. While cleaning the granite, skilled bricklayers also replaced mortar between individual stones, a painstaking process that used cement sourced from the same Upstate New York quarries used by members of the Roebling family, who designed the bridge, for its initial construction. Bricklayers are currently completing the recreation of the original red-brick archway designs by hand, and the project is expected to finish later this year.

“I am thrilled that these iconic spaces will be reopened and returned to the public after a decade of being closed off,” said state Senator Brian Kavanagh. “This represents a tremendous opportunity to help revitalize the Chinatown and Lower East Side communities and provide much-needed recreation and open space.”

“The Arches” and “Brooklyn Banks” are near the Municipal Building and Police Headquarters. (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

“We couldn’t be more excited to join the mayor in this historic announcement for reopening the Brooklyn Banks,” said Councilmember Christopher Marte. “This was one of our top priorities upon taking office, and after decades of broken promises, we are now able to deliver. This open space will serve the diverse communities of Lower Manhattan — restoring a historic skate park, while providing space for children to play and seniors to enjoy the outdoors. It’s also an essential part of the plan to reconnect Chinatown, the Lower East Side, the Seaport, the Financial District and the foot traffic off the Brooklyn Bridge, to bring economic revitalization back to Lower Manhattan. As the first elected official to call for this reopening, I am proud to have the opportunity to bring this public space back to life.”

“Skating is my passion, and it’s allowed me to stay active throughout my life,” said skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, founder of The Skatepark Project. “Everyone deserves that opportunity, no matter who they are or where they live. The Brooklyn Banks and The Arches will bring people of all backgrounds together, building community through creativity, action sports and outdoor play. I appreciate the tenacity of the New York City skate community, who never gave up on the dream of bringing the Brooklyn Banks back for a new generation of skaters to enjoy.”

Rosa Chang, co-founder and president of Brooklyn Bridge Manhattan, called the area’s reopening a win-win-win.

“This is desperately needed public space in a BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] and environmental-justice area with over 47,000 residents living within a half-mile radius,” she said. “For too many years, the derelict land beneath the Manhattan anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge has divided our diverse communities. Mayor Adams’s vision and commitment will transform the same space into a vibrant, safe and inclusive place for us all to come together, play and build a resilient community. Furthermore, it is a bold first step to creating sustained economic revitalization in communities deeply damaged by the pandemic. Finally, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge will have a landing in Manhattan worthy of our historic landmark.”

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