Amidst the building boom in Downtown Brooklyn, there comes a breath of fresh air in the form of a new public square — with much delay.
The city will revive previously canceled plans to transform a patch located on Willoughby Street, between Duffield and Gold Streets, into what will become Willoughby Square, 1.15 acres of green open space.
“You can’t have a thoughtfully planned downtown without great open spaces, and Willoughby Square will — at long last — add an essential patch of green right in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn,” said Regina Myer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “Workers, residents and visitors to Downtown have waited years for it, and I applaud EDC for sticking with the project and seeing it through to this milestone.”
Plans to create the mini-park first emerged as part of a neighborhood rezoning in 2004. But despite years of planning, the NYC Economic Development Cooperation (EDC) canceled in January the initial plan, which saw to built the green space above a high-tech, underground parking lot, after it said the project’s builder failed to finance the Willoughby Square Park development, reported Curbed.
“The previous proposal involved a financially unfeasible underground garage,” said NYCEDC in a statement. “The new development plan is based on recent evaluations as the original need for parking has lessened, given the many new public transit options in the area.”
Now the plan is back on the table. The rampways originally planned for the underground garage will be converted into useable green space, NYCEDC announced, and the park will also bring new community amenities to the area, along with a memorial honoring the abolitionist history of the neighborhood. In partnership with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program, the city will soon begin the process to select an artist to design the artwork with particular attention to the Underground Railroad and its ties to Brooklyn, officials said.
“The development of green space at Willoughby Square is vital to the future of Downtown Brooklyn, especially as the neighborhood continues to grow and the need for healthy open space increases,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “The commitment made to this community 15 years ago must be upheld. I appreciate NYCEDC for continuing to move this important project forward, as well as to create a memorial that will uplift this borough’s role in the Underground Railroad and greater abolitionist movement.”
A portion of the site may already open to the public this summer, while the design and development plan is being finalized. Construction will begin in 2020, with completion expected by 2022.