Then and Now: Cadman Plaza Park

Cadman Plaza

Walking through Cadman Plaza Park, you see kids with their parents/nannys, dog walkers, joggers, and residents enjoying the green space and sports field throughout the year. It’s a welcome spot to walk through despite the busy Tillary Street to the south and the Brooklyn Bridge exit ramp to the north. Adjacent to Cadman Plaza on the east (just south of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) building), the city has been re-developing a 2.9 acre area called Walt Whitman Park which is scheduled for completion in the Spring of 2012 (prior update by McBrooklyn here and the Brooklyn Eagle article on the $4.5M renovation project). But residents of Brooklyn didn’t always have a Cadman Plaza Park. In 1883, Sands Street Terminal was completed in the area now occupied by Cadman Plaza and with Fulton El Terminal, was one of the major arteries and stations for the Brooklyn elevated trains. The Brooklyn Bridge carried passengers from Manhattan to Brooklyn on tracks and the Brooklyn Station was once a majestic elevated train station, only two blocks from Dumbo’s 70 Washington Street.

By the late 1800s and early 1900s, the station was believed to service “tens of thousands” of passengers pass through daily, according to one neighbor who’s family has lived in the area for 2 generations. (If anyone has a published reference, please comment below.) In 1908, the subway construction began, which paved the way for the removal of the elevated tracks. By 1910, the Fulton El Terminal was removed. In 1931, the decision to redevelop the station into a public space was made and thus began the dismantling of the station. Most of Sands Street Elevated Terminal was taken down in 1939. The metal and materials were reused for World War II and streets were reconfigured for the transition from trolleys and carriages to automobiles. By 1939, the park was completed and named Cadman Plaza Park and now occupies 10.384 acres of land. In total there were 21 acres of land cleared, 125 buildings razed, and cost of improvement was $4.5M or $70M in 2010 dollars.

According to the NY City Department of Parks and Recreation, the park “honors Reverend Dr. Samuel Parkes Cadman (1864-1936), a Brooklyn Congregational minister and radio preacher famed for his oratory. He was pastor of the Central Congregational Church in Brooklyn for 36 years and helped to found the Federated Council of Churches in America, which he headed from 1924-1928.” The northern end of Cadman Plaza Park houses a statue of William Jay Gaynor (1829-1913). Gaynor was mayor of New York City from 1910-1913. The southern end is a Korean War Veterans Plaza memorial.

Brooklyn Heights Blog published a nice video ‘montage’ (created by BHB’s Karl Junkersfeld) about the park history. Below are some additional historical photos. Next time you walk through Cadman Plaza park, you can see the scale of the former station and imagine what used to be the track noise above and people getting on and off the Sands Street Station.

 [+] (Photo: 1931, courtesy wired new york)

 [+] (Photo: 1898, courtesy of MCNY)

 [+] (Photo: Brooklyn Bridge Station, undated, courtesy of MCNY)

 [+] (Photo: 1943, courtesy of Gothamist. Notice the tracks ending on the right side as a result of the elevated station being discontinued)

{Dumbo Then and Now, series, DumboNYC}

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