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Honoring History While Meeting Current Needs in Brooklyn’s DUMBO Neighborhood

May 2019

DDC is at work in the Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO

An industrial history helps define the Brooklyn area known as DUMBO—short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass—on the East River between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. Factory buildings dating to the early 20th century dominate the streetscape, which was once connected to Manhattan by steam-powered ferries. Today, as commercial and residential development is increasing, it is important to residents—and the City—to protect the area’s rich past.


Infrastructure upgrades are needed in the neighborhood

The NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) is managing a major renewal of infrastructure, roadways, and public space in DUMBO. With design finished and construction beginning, the planned work is extensive. “You name it, we’re doing it,” explains a DDC engineer leading the project, funded by the NYC Department of Transportation with participation from the NYC Department of Environmental Protection and FEMA.


The growing neighborhood has an industrial past

It is necessary to improve the water delivery system for the growing neighborhood since water mains in the area are over one hundred years old. Upgrades will better serve residents and businesses with increased capacity and pressure. New storm sewers are being added to reduce flooding. Bike lanes will connect the streets to nearby Brooklyn Bridge Park and crosswalks will be improved with granite pavers. The project will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. DDC is also coordinating with private utilities to upgrade and protect that infrastructure.


DUMBO's cobblestones

The unique roadways are older Belgian Block cobblestones. These features are protected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, so special care is being taken to ensure they are not harmed during the construction process. The stones will be dug up, securely stored, and refurbished. When the time comes, they will be carefully reinstalled. Due to the long history of the neighborhood, an archaeologist will be on hand during the excavation process in case anything noteworthy is unearthed.


An aerial view of the present-day plaza

Public space is being improved by enlarging the Pearl Street Triangle plaza. A portion of Anchorage Place will be closed to traffic and transformed into an enhanced gathering spot adjacent to the Manhattan Bridge. New steel-and-wood bleacher seating will face the bridge and LED lighting will illuminate it at night, so the plaza will be a place to marvel at this industrial structure. At the same time, plaza upgrades will provide a better space for a variety of public programs to meet the current needs of the community. In this way, the necessary work celebrates DUMBO’s history while looking forward to its future. 


A rendering of the enlarged Pearl Street Triangle plaza