There is no question that low income housing and people of working class neighborhoods in cities are being displaced by expensive condos and the return of white people from the suburbs. What is lesser known is the way cities, in the past two decades, have used modern parks such as Brooklyn Bridge Park to promote gentrification and redevelopment. These parks make the surrounding areas more attractive for the private developers who invest their money into luxury housing. The plan for Brooklyn Bridge Park was created by New York City in 1998 but they waited until 2008 to break ground. (1) For the time years in between the city worked to clear public buildings and warehouses in order to create the space for the park. In order to fund the park, rent and payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT fees, from luxury housing such as One Brooklyn Bridge Park (a 438 unit apartment complex) go straight to the parks budget instead of helping to support city programs for New Yorkers of all economic backgrounds.(2) The development of BBP also went hand in hand with the rezoning of , which allowed for pre-existing buildings with commercial, manufacturer, and community facility uses to be converted into private residences and office space.(3)
The rezoning of the area proves that the city is actively trying to attract people with more money, leaving the people (often minorities) who can no longer afford the outrageous rents to find cheap living in neighborhoods that could be totally foreign to them. In fact, the part of the park that arguably best serves the minority community are the basketball parks on Pier 2, which have been shut down on several occasions due to “overcrowding” and “fights”.(4) There have also been rumors circulating as to whether or not the basketball courts would remain on Pier 2, as neighbors of the park have complained that the people who use the courts sometimes pose as threats to their safety. Anybody who wishes to hang out or play on the courts have every right to and can’t be explicitly denied from visiting the park. However, people of color visibly stand out while walking through the well-off streets of Brooklyn Heights. The racial tension is, in part, created by the new identity being promoted by the cooperation between the new luxury developers of the neighborhoods and the park officials. It is clear that these users, as non-rich and non-white people, are not the people who the developers of the area and therefore the park are trying to attract.
- Shibley, Robert. Partnering Strategies for the Urban Edge. Bruner Foundation, INC. 20
(2) Rosenberg, Zoe. Brooklyn Bridge Park’s funding continues to be scrutinized. https://ny.curbed.com/2017/2/23/14712138/brooklyn-bridge-park-residential-development-taxes-nyc
(4) Offenhartz, Jake. An Interview With The New President Of Brooklyn’s Most Controversial Park.