Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was the first to speak at the proceedings, and he took a moment to reflect on the outstanding female leadership that has characterized both the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge Park and the bridge it is named after.
“We have a great history of women leadership,” said Markowitz. “Had it not been for Emily Roebling, we may not be celebrating this bridge, and I think we can all agree that if it had not been for Regina Myer, Brooklyn Bridge Park would've never become reality. The beauty and majesty that is unfolding for this, and future, generations, I salute.”
Myer was ecstatic to be announcing the connection of the northern and southern piers at the park.
“This is an incredible milestone for our park,” said Myer. “The entire community fought for over a generation for full public access from old Fulton Street to Atlantic Avenue, and today is the first day that everybody can walk, jog, bike, shpatzir, enjoy this wonder, wonderful waterfront.”
One of the outstanding features of the latest addition to the park highlighted by Myer is the use of reclaimed granite from other capital projects in the city.
“We're standing here on a granite terrace made of recycled stone from the Willis Avenue and Roosevelt Island bridges,” said Myer. “This is a beautiful feature that I hope everybody comes to love.”
Later, Markowitz couldn't help himself from adding to this point that, “Even the granite is moving to Brooklyn.”
Just 25 years ago, the area now known as Brooklyn Bridge Park was an industrial wasteland, and in the late 1980s, the city was trying to sell off its waterfront piers. At that time, few could have dreamed that the space could be made as vibrant as it is today. Fortunately for Brooklyn, as Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez pointed out, a few people did see that possibility.
“Today, let me take a moment to remember the fact that in 1988, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Coalition came together to advocate for a waterfront park in the shadows of the New York/New Jersey Port Authority trying to sell the pier,” said Velázquez. “It was because of that vision that we saved these piers for the benefit of our community, our families, our children.”
Another of the exceptional features of the new stretch of park is a giant, grass-covered berm that isolates the park from the unbecoming sights and sounds of the BQE.
“Really, this is a new sanctuary that we can go to and enjoy the peace and quiet looking out at the harbor, look at Manhattan, and enjoying the peace and quiet that make parks experiences what they are in New York City,” said Councilman Stephen Levin.
Assemblywoman Joan Millman was especially impressed with the berm, though she urged attendees to be patient and not judge its yellow-green starkness as a permanent quality.
“So many people as I walked in talked about the berm, and how they couldn't hear anything from the BQE. It looks this way now, but in the spring when the plantings take root, it's going to become really beautiful,” said Millman. “It will do two things: add more beauty to our park, which we have already in abundance, but it will also relieve that horrific traffic sound and make it very separate from our experiences in the park.”
State Senator Daniel Squadron said of the park that, “it's just what Brooklyn is.”
“The fact that so many kids and generations are going to experience in Brooklyn is a great credit to all of those visionaries, community members, builders who made it happen,” said Squadron.
He also pointed out that the park, while truly coming into its own, is far from complete.
“The more you use this park, the more the park will get built,” said Squadron. “If you think this is it, because it's so great, here's the great news: We still need about $60 million more to get all the to the end. So call, fight, advocate; let's get this park finished because it's so amazing already and we're not done yet.”
Myer also added that Pier 2 and the Pier 4 beach will be opening in the spring, inviting all to come join the park staff and the Conservancy to celebrate that occasion.