The administration of Mayor Eric Adams announced on Friday that a park in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, closed for more than a decade, will reopen on May 24. The Arches, a one-acre space named for the 53 soaring vaults that comprise the Brooklyn Bridge anchorage, will feature basketball, pickleball, and shuffleboard courts, along with public seating. The reopened space will also include access to the skateboarding park known as Brooklyn Banks. This debut will coincide with a panoply of celebrations observing the 140th anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge’s opening.
The reopening of the Arches will also mark the completion of a series of three rehabilitation projects on the Brooklyn Bridge, which began in 2010, and cost a total of $800 million. The upgrades, overseen by the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT), included cleaning of the bridge’s granite stones for the first time since its original construction, transforming them from brown (a patina acquired with more than a century’s worth of dust, soot, and pollution) to their original 19th-century bright gray. While scouring the granite, bricklayers also replaced mortar between individual stones, employing cement sourced from the same upstate New York quarries used by members of the Roebling family 14 decades ago, when they designed the bridge. This work was originally scheduled to continue through the end of this decade, but has been finished years ahead of schedule.
“One hundred forty years ago, we opened the Brooklyn Bridge and connected two islands. This is a landmark 1883 moment for our communities, our public spaces, and our recovery,” said Mayor Adams.
“We couldn’t be more excited to join the Mayor in this historic announcement for reopening the Brooklyn Banks,” said City Council member Christopher Marte. “This was one of our top priorities upon taking office, and after decades of broken promises, we are now able to deliver. This open space will serve the diverse communities of Lower Manhattan—restoring a historic skate park, while providing space for children to play and seniors to enjoy the outdoors.”
“I am thrilled that these iconic spaces will be reopened and returned to the public after a decade of being closed off,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh. “This represents a tremendous opportunity to help revitalize the Chinatown and Lower East Side communities and provide much-needed recreation and open space.”
This park space beneath the Brooklyn Bridge was “temporarily” closed 13 years ago for use as a staging area to facilitate maintenance work on the Brooklyn Bridge, and never reopened. In 2020, an online petition demanding that the facility once again be made available for public use garnered more than 45,000 signatures, and Community Board 1 (CB1) passed numerous resolutions demanding that the space be be reopened. The DOT responded to these resolutions by saying that it would need to occupy the park space well into the 2030s, for ongoing Brooklyn Bridge maintenance projects.
Brooklyn Banks is an iconic destination for skateboarders, because the streetscape in the park provides an undulating terrain of ramps, rails, ledges, and jumps. Long before any of these stunts were legal in New York, boarders from around the United States would come here to compete and connect with one another.
In the years after its debut in the early 1970s, the site evolved into an unofficial cultural and historical landmark, in large measure due to its design by the renowned landscape architect, M. Paul Friedberg. Ironically, Mr. Friedberg never intended to create a mecca for the subculture of skateboarding, which was then just beginning to coalesce. He simply wanted to transform a barren patch of Lower Manhattan into useable public space. But the red brick that he chose to cover the ground (and from which “Red Brick Park” took its original name) turned out to be a material much prized by boarders, who regard it a second only to marble in the quality of ride it affords. And the sloping topography of the site provided the rest of the magic that skateboard enthusiasts crave, by unleashing the power of gravity. The sidewalk surfers who were drawn to the site christened it with the name that has stuck ever since: “The Banks.”