Downtown Brooklyn feels less like a neighborhood than an ad hoc urban agglomeration, so chosen because all the trains go there. Its geography is interstitial, depending on where you draw the lines for DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, and Boerum Hill. Thus it fosters less communal warmth among its denizens than perhaps any other neighborhood in Brooklyn. But a new package of investments, announced yesterday by Mayor de Blasio, seeks to change that, and make Downtown Brooklyn a more dynamic place to live as well as work.
The 2004 rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn, coupled with $400 million in public infrastructure investment, is responsible for the neighborhood’s transformation into a thriving commercial hub. In the past decade, Downtown Brooklyn has attracted more than $4 billion in private investment, leading to the construction of more than 5,000 residential units, almost a quarter of a million square feet of office space, and 625,000 square feet of retail space.
It feels like a place to work–but not a place to live. The brutalist architecutre, lack of green space, and constant construction projects are uninviting, to say the least. De Blasio’s plan will, among other things, open the ground floors of City-owned buildings to retail development, create new parks and improve existing ones, and collaborate with the area’s eleven major education institutions to position Downtown Brooklyn as a national leader in technology. Other iniatives include:
- -Expanding a 21-acre greenway from the courthouses to the waterfront, dubbed the “Brooklyn Strand,” by linking park spaces.
- -Launching a Brooklyn Cultural District BID.
- -Making streets safer near the Brooklyn Bridge safer by widening pedestrian areas and installing benches.
- -Creating a college consortium composed of the 11 schools in the area with $200,000 in funding from EDC.
- -Continuing with some Bloomberg-era efforts to increase park space, such as reopening BAM Park, constructing a new park at Flatbush and Fulton, and another in Willoughby Square.
Downtown Brooklyn is one of “city’s great success stories,” the Mayor said in a press release. “We have an incredible opportunity to take these stunning communities, parks and institutions and knit them together. The investments we are making will help Downtown Brooklyn continue its rise, generate good jobs, and make this a more dynamic neighborhood to live and work.”
It’s going to take time for Downtown to feel like a vibrant neighborhood. But bringing a fleet of food trucks isn’t a bad start.