Sunday, January 11, 2015

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

Brooklyn Heights Promenade Looking North
Brooklyn Heights Promenade Looking South
“There may be finer views than this in the world, but I don’t believe it.” President Abraham Lincoln at the crest of Brooklyn Heights, 1864.[1]

Designed by Clarke & Rapuano architects, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade was built in 1951 as part of the BQE transportation project. The promenade is cantilevered over the BQE and runs almost the entire length of Brooklyn Heights extending 1,826 feet from Remsen Street to Orange Street.[1][2] On one side are the gardens and the other a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline, as well as the Statue of Liberty, Governor’s Island and Staten Island. Within the promenade are 3 monuments including the flagpole at the terminus of Montague Street, a stone marking where the “Four Chimneys” House once stood and a granite Thunderbird located in Garden number 5 designed and built by Park’s Department employees.[1]

Four Chimneys Monument
Brooklyn Heights Promenade Flag Pole at Montague Street Entrance
Flag Pole
Flag Pole Plaque
The original idea for a Brooklyn Heights promenade dates back to an 1827 proposal by Hezekiah Pierrepont. The objective of Pierrepont’s proposed promenade was to provide a public space for Brooklyn’s elite to see and be seen. However, due to the opposition from one of Pierrepont’s friends and neighbors he decided not to pursue his promenade.[1] It wasn’t until over 100 years later that the idea of a promenade in Brooklyn Heights would be revived when the city began planning the Brooklyn Heights segment of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE). 
BQE from Brooklyn Heights Promenade
The original plan for the Brooklyn Heights portion of the BQE proposed by Robert Moses and the New York City Planning Commission was that the expressway traverse the center of the community along Hicks Street; however that plan was scrapped in favor of a route closer to New York Harbor. The alternate route would have required the gardens between the expressway and homes of Pierrepont Place and Columbia Heights be demolished.[2] One of the residents who’s garden would have been destroyed by the highway proposed that a two level highway be built with a “cover” to preserve the gardens.[1] So, the Brooklyn Heights Association proposed the inclusion of a promenade as a means to preserve the gardens. Although Robert Moses was not known for being accommodating, the promenade idea piqued his interest and it was included in the transportation project. The promenade is one of the few concessions made by Moses to mitigate the impact of any of his transportation projects.[2]

The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is one of the borough's hidden gems and is considered “one of the most inspired pieces of urban design of its period in New York” In addition, it was once hailed as an architectural masterpiece by renowned urban historian and urban design critic Lewis Mumford.[2]
View of Manhattan Skyline from Brooklyn Heights Promenade
Manhattan Skyline from Promenade
Until recently Brooklyn Heights was one of the few great Brooklyn neighborhood spots for taking in the Manhattan skyline. Now other waterfront parks and esplanades exist in Williamsburg and Greenpoint and more are on the way.

  1. Brooklyn Heights Promenade New York City Department of Parks and Recreation online.
  2. Marrone, Frances An Architectural Guide Book to Brooklyn

1 comment:

  1. The so-called "monument", the Eagle done in cobblestones, was not done with the knowledge of community leaders, and has mostly vanished, as earth and new plantings have covered it, and as cobblestones have been removed. Plants are the most important things here, not a big eagle that replaces them.