Meet the River Heads

WHAT EXACTLY IS UNDERNEATH THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE?

Find out from Nancy Webster, the executive director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, and author of A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park

By PAULA CHIN

PHOTO: JULIENNE SCHAER

The city may have miles of waterfront, but there’s only a few places where you can get easily your feet wet. One exception is the Brooklyn Bridge Park, an 85-acre strip of greenway that stretches for 1.3 miles from Atlantic Avenue to Jay Street north of the Manhattan Bridge. We turned to Nancy Webster, executive director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy and co-author of A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park, to get an insider’s view of this unique spot on the river’s edge. Dip your toes and go on in, she says – the water’s fine!

UrbanCoast.nyc: Why should you make the trek?
Nancy Webster: Well, first of all, the park is green and gorgeous. It’s a great escape to a natural habitat. Second, there’s a ton to do — we have over 500 free cultural and recreational activities each year, like our Beneath the Bridge book readings and our own Shakespeare in the park. Third, it’s a place of soft edges and sandy beaches where you can actually touch the water. You’re not separated from it by a barrier or bulkhead, like on the Hudson. Manhattanites should definitely come on over.

UrbanCoast: Best kept secret:
Webster: Seahorses! Every year we bring 12,000 kids to the park’s Environmental Education Center to use as a living classroom. We drop a long seine net into the water and ask them what they think we’ll catch. They’ll say old shoes, car batteries, and dead bodies. They’re amazed when we pull up not just fish, but crustaceans and six-inch seahorses. They actually live under the Manhattan Bridge, right off the park’s edge.

UrbanCoast: Favorite spot:
Webster: The salt marsh just south of Pier 1. It’s a lovely spot to sit and look at the water. You can see sea grass swaying in the breeze and the grandeur of New York Harbor and the lower Manhattan skyline. One of the magical things about the park is that it’s layered with different experiences. It’s meditative and relaxing, but you also feel the vibrancy of the city.

UrbanCoast: What’s your vision for the future?
Webster: It’s incredibly exciting how people have rediscovered the Urban Coast waterfront as a place for recreation at places like Hudson River Park and Freshkills Park in Staten Island. We’ve come so far as a city, but have even further to go. I’d like to see is a ferry service that will strengthen the connections between the parks and knit them all together. You can take a water taxi from Brooklyn Bridge Park to Governors Island, but by boat the trip would be as much as fun as being in the parks themselves.

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Looking for more things to do around the East River? UrbanCoast.nyc

nancy webster brooklyn bridge park

PHOTO: JULIENNE SCHAER

a history of brooklyn bridge park book
brooklyn bridge park

PHOTO: ETIENNE FROSSARD

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