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Emily Warren Roebling Plaza
© Alexa Hoyer
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Emily Warren Roebling Plaza

OPENED DECEMBER 9, 2021

This area beneath the Brooklyn Bridge is a flexible public plaza space that adds two acres of parkland and links the Main Street & John Street park sections to the southern piers, a crucial connection point that enhances the flow of pedestrian traffic in the Park, while providing a moment to observe the incredible Brooklyn Bridge from below. This project marks the completion of the Park as originally planned and honor the rich history of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Named in honor of Emily Warren Roebling, who is known for her work ensuring the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, this final section of the Park pays tribute to the rich history of the Bridge. Emily Warren Roebling Plaza features a large hardscaped area designed with concrete pavers that echo the pattern and engineering of the above Bridge and is surrounded by landscaped trees, lawns, and benches. The adjacent Empire Fulton Ferry Lawn reopened earlier this year after renovations to better connect the two spaces. This project also includes the installation of over one hundred protective bollards stretching from Old Fulton Street and Furman Street to Water Street and New Dock Street, for enhanced pedestrian safety.

Catch a preview of Emily Warren Roebling Plaza on CBS Morning Show, The history of the Brooklyn Bridge: “Such an iconic piece of New York City and beyond”

From NY1: The finishing touch on Brooklyn Bridge Park is here 

 

PLANNING

In 2018, Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council retained a team of professors and graduate students from Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture to conduct a community engagement process to lead a Vision Plan for this space.

Read more about this study and the findings here.

The Purchase Building Lintel Signage

The Purchase Building, built in 1936 as a project of the Works Progress Administration, was a two-story Art Deco structure located directly underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. The building served many purposes in service of the City of New York, originally as a warehouse for the City’s “Department of Purchase.” For many decades following, it was used for other city agencies, and for a short time after September 11th it was the temporary home of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). As part of the design of Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Landmarks Preservation Commission authorized the demolition of the vacant Purchase Building stating that “the location of the building complex obscures the base of the Brooklyn Bridge tower, and detracts from its special architectural and historic character” and that “removing these buildings will reestablish the historic open character of the space beneath the bridge.” When the Purchase Building was demolished, the building’s lintel, the structural horizontal support above the main doorway, was salvaged for historical purposes. The lintel is now integrated into a central plant bed in Emily Warren Roebling Plaza, as an homage to the history of the space.

 

EMILY WARREN ROEBLING

Born in 1843, Emily Warren Roebling played a key role in the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. A graduate of Georgetown Visitation Convent in Washington, D.C., Emily was a well-educated woman for her time. In 1872, when her husband Washington Roebling, Chief Engineer of the bridge, was partially disabled with “caisson disease” – a decompression sickness caused by working underwater on the bridge tower excavations – Emily took charge of his communications, studied his plans, copied his specifications, and wrote and explained instructions to his assistant engineers. She played a major role in the raising of the bridge and was what Washington called his “wisest council” and “a woman of infinite tact.” Looking out over the bridge from their home at 110 Columbia Terrace, Emily met with engineers, negotiated details with contractors, corresponded with reporters and trustees, and attended bridge events and lectures.

As construction drew to a close in 1881, Emily fearlessly led Trustees across the bridge on the newly planked promenade, perilously open to the river below. When some Trustees wanted to replace Washington in1882, Emily’s gracious yet stalwart defense saved his position as Chief Engineer. Shortly before the bridge opened, Emily drove a carriage across it at a trot to test for vibrations, carrying with her a rooster, symbolizing victory. When the bridge opened in May 1883, Emily was in the first carriage to cross, and later that day hosted a reception at her Brooklyn Heights home, attended by then President Chester A. Arthur.

Emily Roebling was widely praised for her contributions and in 1896, she traveled alone to Europe, where she was presented to Queen Victoria in London and attended the Coronation of Czar Nicholas II in Moscow. In 1899, she completed the Women’s Law Course at NYU, winning a $50 prize for her essay, “A Wife’s Disabilities,” criticizing legal limits on women’s financial independence. After Emily died in 1903, Washington praised her “remarkable talent,” and “thorough knowledge of the work and plans.” As Abram Hewitt, who later became Mayor, said at its opening ceremony, the Brooklyn Bridge is “an everlasting monument” to Emily’s efforts and self-sacrifice.

 

Researched and written by C.W. Zink

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