Place in History

Dumbo Development Boxes

Year: 1999
Project: Installation of ten viewing boxes at Brooklyn's Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park as part of the Intervistas/Between the Bridges exhibit, sponsored by the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition. Each box housed images exploring the planning, development, and redevelopment of Fulton Ferry/DUMBO/Vinegar Hill area since its emergence as Brooklyn's chief port in the mid-1600s. Place in History kicked off the project by drawing up a timeline history of DUMBO, and by organizing a community workshop, at which local residents, activists, urbanists, artists, historians and developers met to discuss neighborhood history and current development plans.
  • Dumbo Community Workshop

    June 10, 1999 - Smack Mellon Studios Brooklyn, NY

    The Development Box Project was an interdisciplinary initiative focused on the history and development of the Fulton Ferry / DUMBO / Vinegar Hill area, Brooklyn's first port neighborhood. As a first step towards examining this history, Place in History organized a workshop with community members, historians, urbanists and artists to discuss the social, physical and economic history of the area. In the aftermath of the workshop, Place in History drew on participants' comments and our own research to develop a series of slides, evoking the neighborhood's landscape and history. These slides were then displayed in ten viewing boxes which Place in History mounted in Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

    Click here to read excerpts from the workshop transcript.

  • Dumbo Development Boxes

    July 31 to September 6, 1999 - Fulton Ferry State Park New Dock Street & East River, Brooklyn, NY

    The DUMBO Development Boxes Project was an interdisciplinary initiative focused on the history and development of the Fulton Ferry / DUMBO / Vinegar Hill area, Brooklyn's first port neighborhood.

    As a first step towards examining this history, Place in History organized a workshop with community members, historians, urbanists and artists to discuss the social, physical and economic history of the area.

    Combining ideas and materials from a Place in History-organized community workshop with our own research, Place in History developed a series of slides for display within our ten viewing boxes. The slides evoke the neighborhood's ever-changing landscape (from pastoral village to manufacturing center to upscale residential enclave), its allure as the subject of grand development schemes, and its strong and sometimes strained relationship to Lower Manhattan, its sister neighborhood across the river.

    Sponsors

    Brooklyn Borough President's Office
    Independence Community Foundation
    New York Council for the Humanities

    Partners

    Marcia Hillis
    Marcia Reiss
    Marianna Koval
    Gary Vanderputten
    Louanne Smith
    Robert Winkler
    Arlene Winkler
    Christopher Drago
    Lorraine Walsh
    Berit Fischer
    Monique Denoncin
    Anne Howland
    Michele Convery
    Jonas Kyle
    Orin Brown
    Adam Levinson
    Carol Clark
    Susan De Vreis
    Smack Mellon Studios
    Brooklyn Historical Society
    Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition
    Brooklyn Public Library
    New York Public Library
    New York City Municipal Archives

  • Historical Chronology, 1642 - 2000


  Page 4: Post-war Decline, And Rebirth  

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Post-War Decline, and Rebirth

1959: The Jay Street Connecting Railroad ceases to operate.

1963: Consolidated Edison purchased the Empire Stores.

1967-69: The Empire Stores site is proposed for a wholesale meat market. Local opposition is so vehement that the idea is abandoned.

1971-72: Plans are announced to convert the Empire Stores to a festival marketplace.

1974: The Fulton Landing area, including the Empire Stores, is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1977: The Fulton Ferry Historic District is designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

1978: The New York State Department of Parks and Recreation purchases the nine-acre Empire Stores site from Consolidated Edison.

1979: The Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park is created.

1982: Two Trees Management Company, led by developer David Walentas, purchases nine DUMBO buildings for $16.5 million. By the end of the year, Walentas owns approximately 2.5 million square feet in DUMBO.

1984: Walentas receives conditional designation by New York City and New York State to redevelop the (now State-owned) Empire Stores, along with a number of city-owned sites in DUMBO. Walentas proposes a massive commercial and residential redevelopment plan for the area. The plan is plagued by political problems and, after 1987's stock market crash, a depressed real estate market.

1989: The Brooklyn Bridge Park Coalition is founded to design and advocate a new park along the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO waterfront.

1997: The Downtown Brooklyn Water-front Local Development Corporation is formed to study the redevelopment of the Brooklyn Heights waterfront. The waterfront area between the bridges is excluded from the LDC's jurisdiction as a concession to Two Trees Management. The State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation issues a request for proposals on the redevelopment of Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park. Two Trees Management is the only respondent.

1998: Two Trees Management receives a contract from the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation designating Two Trees Management the developer of Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park.

1999: Two Trees Management releases a $300 million development plan for Fulton Ferry Landing, DUMBO, and parts of Vinegar Hill (east of the Manhattan Bridge). The plan, which redesigns Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, includes about 375,000 square feet of retail development, a 250 room hotel, a waterfront marina, a cinamaplex, and nearly 2000 new parking spaces. The plan faces opposition from the DUMBO Neighborhood Association, the Fulton Ferry Landing Association, The Vinegar Hill Association, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Coalition and Community Board 2. The plan is strongly supported by New York City and State. The State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announces that it will demolish the Tobacco Warehouse.

DUMBO 1999

The signature architectural proposal of the Two Trees plan is a 250 room waterfront hotel designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. The following excerpts are taken from Nouvel's description of the hotel:

"In fairy tales the wicked witch keeps the princess from seeing herself in a mirror, which is the only way she can discover her real beauty. Admiring one's image, being confident of one's looks was such a pleasure that it was equated with sin. What we have here is a golden opportunity to reach out a Narcissus mirror to Manhattan: look at yourself, and love it!

"The fact is the river hotel is a bridge between two bridges: a place for looking at the City's bridges the way you see them from a ship. It obeys the strict logic of New York's piers and holds to the urban grid that runs right down to the water. It stretches its front to the utmost, going onto the river as if to reach over to the other side -- the symbolic gesture of a pier that belongs to Manhattan as much as to Brooklyn."

-- Two Trees Management Co., "A Plan for the D.U.M.B.O. Waterfront"

1999-2000: New York City and State withdraw support of the Two Trees proposal. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation initiates planning process encompassing waterfront property from Brooklyn Heights to Vinegar Hill.

Source: Beyer Blinder Belle, Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park Feasibility Study, 1990


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