At Brooklyn Bridge Park, there are terraces for barbecuing, paths for strolling and lawns for simply lying around and enjoying the views of Lower Manhattan, the East River and the Statue of Liberty. This week, more than six years after the park broke ground, a pier will be unveiled for activities that require more energy: five acres devoted to sports including pickup basketball games, roller-skating, bocce and kayaking.
The former warehouse dock, Pier 2, advances the park’s mission to be “open to everybody,” as Regina Myer, the president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, put it. Yet its opening comes during a season of controversy over who and what the park is for.
A city plan to build affordable and luxury housing in the park to help cover its operating costs has triggered protests from residents of nearby neighborhoods, who say the park should not be overshadowed by apartment towers, however laudable the goal. And Mayor Bill de Blasio has championed the idea that underfunded, overlooked neighborhood parks should receive their fair share of attention after the Bloomberg administration, during which millions of dollars went to a few gilded projects like Brooklyn Bridge Park, the High Line and Governors Island.
Amid this complex interplay of issues, Ms. Myer sees the new pier as the latest of many ways the park welcomes the public, including the many free events it hosts.
“Our challenge is making sure that this park is for everyone,” she said in an interview. A key to supporting that mission, she explained, is revenue from the residential towers. Luxury housing already exists in the park, and more is being built; the building plan calls for a mix of market-rate and affordable housing for the next phase.
Besides basketball, handball, shuffleboard and bocce courts, Pier 2 has a full-size roller-skating rink that will open in late June, a playground and exercise area, picnic tables overlooking the water and an artificial turf field for any game that comes to mind, some of it covered by a warehouse roof preserved from when the pier was operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Kayakers will be able to launch from the pier and boat to other landings and piers in the park.
A small beach at Pier 4 is also opening, and just off the beach, the remains of a bridge once used for transferring railroad cars from the river to land has been converted into what the park is calling Bird Island, complete with an osprey platform, not yet inhabited.
Several local elected officials, including City Councilman Stephen Levin, State Senator Daniel L. Squadron and State Assemblywoman Joan Millman, are scheduled to attend the opening ceremony of the pier on Thursday afternoon. They are also part of a group of officials that has repeatedly opposed building housing in the park.
Last week, when Mr. de Blasio’s administration released a request for proposals for apartment towers near the southern end of the park, it issued a statement expressing disappointment “with this rushed R.F.P. to continue the Bloomberg administration plan for housing towers.”
A petition from local residents, which has gathered more than 1,000 signatures, was less measured.
“Parks are for people — not high rises,” ran one typical comment, from a signer named Roy Sloane.
Ms. Myer defended the housing plan, explaining that while the park receives sizable donations, it receives no public funding for maintenance and operation costs.
Mr. Squadron has also pressed for legislation that would require the largest conservancies to give 20 percent of their yearly operating budgets to neighborhood parks, a plan that could yield up to $15 million a year. Mr. de Blasio and his new parks commissioner, Mitchell J. Silver, have embraced the parks equity idea, if not Mr. Squadron’s specific plan.
Asked about the issue, Ms. Myer said: “We are admittedly very lucky. I hope we can help and we will help.” But, she said, Brooklyn Bridge Park is not yet in a position to offer assistance to struggling parks by, for instance, lending out crews of workers, as the Central Park Conservancy does.
Nearly half of the 85-acre park remains unfinished, including Pier 6, which will have a lawn and a flower field, and Pier 3, which the park corporation has not yet raised the funds to build. The park also plans to complete a smaller section on the waterfront in Dumbo and convert the Empire Stores and Tobacco Warehouse complex, which are slated to house a theater and shops, by the end of next year, bringing it nearly three-quarters of the way to completion. (That development has also attracted criticism from local residents.)
On Tuesday evening, as the lights came on over the pier, people practiced dance moves on the field and made vigorous use of the exercise equipment, as if in an architectural rendering come to life. Pickup games occupied every basketball court.
“There’s no court like this where you can play ball and see the whole city,” said Mike Yeung, 29, of Bensonhurst, gesturing at the startlingly close view of Lower Manhattan.
He had come with a friend, Samuel Cho, 31, after driving by the park and seeing the gleaming new courts. “Like zero to hero,” Mr. Cho said. “There was nothing here before.”
Another basketball player, Taha Alassari, 30, of Bay Ridge, complained about the lack of parking nearby but was full of praise for the fiberglass backboards, the accommodating hours (open until 11 p.m.) and even the white nets.
“Usually it’s a wooden, raggedy backboard,” he said of the more dilapidated neighborhood parks and courts where he usually plays. “This is like an indoor basketball court. Real ball players, they’re going to like that.”
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