As plans for a permanent park at Willoughby Square go forward, a temporary green space at the same site has opened to the public. The 15,000-square-foot “pop-up park” will provide a green escape for the local community until the end of the summer in 2020, at which point construction will commence on the permanent, 1.15-acre park scheduled for completion by 2022.
As 6sqft reported in May, the city’s Economic Development Corporation announced it would be reviving the Willoughby Square Park project that first came up 15 years ago during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration as part of a 2004 rezoning to attract development in Downtown Brooklyn. Through this zoning change, the city used eminent domain to take over a group of tenement buildings and properties that were thought to have been stops on the Underground Railroad, evicting many rent-stabilized residents in the process.
In January, the project was abandoned due to the developer’s inability to secure funding. A few months later, the EDC’s capital division announced it would be taking on the construction itself and proceeding with a plan that cut the estimated $80 million project to just $15 million. The new budget scrapped a “financially unfeasible” parking and added a memorial to honor the area’s ties to the Underground Railroad. The developer, American Development Group, disputed EDC’s claims when their name was taken off the project and is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the agency.
“When NYCEDC developed our new plan for Willoughby Square, we worked to ensure there was green space available for residents to enjoy this summer,” said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. “We are excited to open this space and look forward to the continued development of the full site, which will be an important addition to Downtown Brooklyn.”
The park features a synthetic turf lawn with beach chairs, and giant chess and checker boards. A walkway and planters separate the grassy area from a graveled plaza with colorful tables, chairs, and umbrellas. As Curbed noted, the park doesn’t allow dogs, which is a major pain point for local residents who have to schlep over to Fort Greene Park or Hill Side Park in Brooklyn Heights. That should only be a temporary inconvenience, as the EDC’s plans for the permanent park include a dedicated space for four-legged companions.
The design of Willoughby Park is being led by landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Jones. It’s not yet clear how the ongoing lawsuit with ADG—which includes a provision preventing EDC from doing anything more than surface work at the site—will impact the project’s timeline.