November 7th, 2011
The Dumbo Business Improvement District announced last week a $20 million commitment of funds for Dumbo streets by the city for a second phase of reconstruction of DUMBO’s historic Belgian block streets and the centuries-old pipes below them. According to the BID, “The funds will also be used to permanently build out the Pearl Street Triangle to create a world-class plaza space between the Pearl Street Triangle and the adjacent Archway under the Manhattan Bridge. The first phase of work, covering Water and Washington Streets, will be completed this month.”
We have seen some great programming at the Pearl Street Triangle, and it’s good to finally see funding for a more permanent plaza area. The BID held an ideas competition for the triangle last year, which spurred some interesting (and some far fetched) ideas. The BID told DumboNYC that while we may not see any of these ideas become reality, they will continue to solicit ideas from the community to work with the city on a design that’s best suited for the space.
As for the Belgian block restoration, almost everyone we’ve talked to likes the street fixes. However, in a Brooklyn Paper article on Friday titled DUMBO — historyland or Disneyland?, Doreen Gallo of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance says that the reconstruction is “historically inaccurate” and too expensive. So we asked her about it. What do most people not know about the restoration? She feels that most people are unaware of what is being sacrificed and what the difference is between restoring the Belgian block in an historic, authentic way and the recent execution on Washington and Water Streets:
“The original Belgian block was replaced with old looking uniform stone and a granite middle car wide bike path and this patterning of crosswalk destroys the original uniformity of the Belgian block with the iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge. It is not a mall, not a renovation but should be a restoration.”
Ms. Gallo reminds us that every street in Dumbo has Belgian blocks.
“[Historically] there was no asphalt. DOT never followed their own HIQA rules and never enforced subcontractors to put the Belgian block back in kind. Gradually, DOT completely paved over Front St, Jay St, Adams St. On Wednesday, at 12:30 pm, Time Warner was cutting through Pearl St parallel with the triangle. When I arrived they’d cut through 20 feet. By 1pm was told that we had a stop work order. Councilmember Levin called the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner and HIQA DOT inspectors showed up assuring that they were there to make sure it was put back exactly how it was under the asphalt. But how can that be if they were cutting through the block? By 2:30 pm 125 feet were cut through. John Weiss, helpful with the permit said that he did not realize that the Belgian block was under 2″ of asphalt. Yesterday Time Warner continued down Pearl toward Plymouth.”
Photos from Friday of the work referenced by Ms. Gallo below:
Clearly there are some differences by preservation groups and the city on how the “restoration” of the Belgian block streets need to be done. There’s no question that Dumbo’s streets need fixing up and more are pleased with it, but according to the DNA, landmark issues must be considered.
More specifics on what the funding will go towards is on the Dumbo BID website.