By Mary Frost
Brooklyn’s Central Park needs a better way to get to its center.
A new group called Connect Montague is pushing for a direct link from the fabled promenade to Brooklyn Bridge Park, the much-used, but difficult-to-access waterfront green space. The park drew five million visitors last summer, but is only accessible on its northern and southern ends.
A ramp or elevator from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade would “correct what was an omission in the original park planning,” group member Steve Rothman told Community Board 2 on Monday night.
And the timing might be perfect; the city is currently planning its $2-billion renovation of the cantilevered portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway under the promenade — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a new amenity, Rothman added.
Convenience and safety
The majority of park visitors arrive by subway, Rothman said. From there, they enter the park at Old Fulton Street or Squibb Bridge on the north end, or Atlantic Avenue or Joralemon Street on the south.
A Montague Street access point would make entering and leaving the center of the park more convenient and offer safer street crossings, Rothman said, especially for seniors and those with young children.
Joralemon Street, a narrow, Belgium block road, was never intended as a main gateway, and Old Fulton Street gets overcrowded. Montague Street is already Brooklyn Heights’ main commercial thoroughfare, and the increased pedestrian traffic would be a boost to businesses, said Kate Chura, executive director of the Montague Street Business Improvement District, which supports the plan.
Elevator or ramp?
Original park planners studied installing an elevator from the promenade, but residents were concerned it would obstruct the famous Manhattan view and would be difficult to maintain, said architect Marc Wouters, who favors a gradual ramp.
“It’s such a shallow slope you don’t even need to call it a ramp,” he said. “Everybody can use it — bikes, pedestrians, it’s accessible. And it always will have the view to the harbor. You could shield the noise [and fumes] from the highway with a cover, if you had the money.”
Rothman said community support, starting with a vote of confidence from CB2, would pressure the city to look into the idea — a first step towards lining up sufficient funds.
The group, he added, would “make sure there’s an inspired view of this thing, and not the most pedestrian pedestrian access point.”
The board’s executive committee said it would send a letter of support to the Department of Transportation.
There were no opponents of the proposal on hand at the community board briefing, but in the past, some residents of Montague Street have objected to the increased traffic that a promenade access point would bring. The group said the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few.
“We appeal to a sense of fairness in objectively analyzing the need for additional park access … and the general good — for visitors, residents and local businesses — that would be achieved by creating a central Heights connector,” the group wrote in its formal presentation.
Business owners and residents seem to support the idea.
“It would inject a little something into the retail market,” which is struggling on Montague Street, said Dana Nahas, who works in DUMBO.
New father Chris Tufts, who lives on Pierrepont Street, also backs the idea, citing the hordes of park visitors.
“I see a lot of people walking through the neighborhood already, so they might as well make it easier for everyone,” he said. “The park’s a great resource.”
Of course, some residents don’t want more visitors to the center of the neighborhood.
“It would be a mixed blessing,” said Tom, a Brooklyn Heights resident who wished to be identified only by his first name. “I don’t want it — I’m fine with going the extra half mile.”
The following groups support asking the Department of Transportation to explore additional access to Brooklyn Bridge Park:
• Montague St. BID
• Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez
• Brooklyn Heights Association
• Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
• Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation
• State Senator Brian Kavanagh
• Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy
• The Willowtown Association
• Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon
• Councilmember Stephen Levin
• Fulton Ferry Landing Association
• Atlantic Avenue BID
• Downtown Brooklyn Partnership