Brooklyn Heights Promenade
1826 feet wide
"There may be finer views than this in the world, but I don't believe it," said President Abraham Lincoln in 1864, when he exited his carriage on the crest that gives Brooklyn Heights its name. In his time private gardens occupied most of this area, but locals continued to go "promenading" at the ends of the streets and to look out at the Manhattan skyline. When the esplanade that extends from Remsen Street to Orange Street was finally built in the 1950s, it was designated the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Today residents and visitors alike come out and stroll along the Promenade, admiring the unmatched views of Staten Island, Governor's Island, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the World Trade Center, South Street Seaport, Fulton Fish Market, the Brooklyn Bridge, and other landmarks.
The idea of a promenade at this location has a long history, dating back to Hezekiah Pierrepont's (1768-1838) proposal of 1827. The wealthy Brooklyn Heights resident imagined a place where the elite of Brooklyn could see and be seen, a place that would rival Manhattan's Battery; however, one of Pierrepont's friends and neighbors vehemently opposed it, and Pierrepont backed down out of respect for the friendship. It is written, nonetheless, in a 19th-century history of Brooklyn that Pierrepont "lived and died in the belief and desire, that the Heights some day be made a public promenade."
His belief and desire were fulfilled over a hundred years later, although not without a compromise between the City and the residents of Brooklyn Heights. In 1941 Robert Moses and the New York City Planning Commission proposed the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) right through the middle of Brooklyn Heights. Not surprisingly, the community successfully opposed this plan. Four years later the Commission returned with another proposal: a six-lane highway level with the present Promenade. Again, there was community opposition. One resident, whose private garden would be destroyed by the arterial highway, suggested that a double-decker highway be constructed with a "cover," protecting the gardeners' plots from smog and noise. Moses liked this idea, but to the residents' chagrin, made the cover a public promenade, which was dedicated on October 7, 1950. On that occasion, Moses declared, "I don't know of anything quite like this in any city in the world."
Although a small park, the Promenade has three monuments. Most prominent is the flagpole at the bottom of Montague Street in tribute to Genevieve Beavers Earle (1885-1956), a Brooklyn Heights resident and civic leader. A few steps behind the flagpole there is a stone marking the land where the "Four Chimneys" House formerly stood. In this house, used as a headquarters by George Washington during the Battle of Long Island, the Council of War on August 29, 1776 decided "to withdraw the American Army from Long Island" and escape across the East River to Manhattan. Just north of Pierrepont Street in Garden 5 is a Thunderbird designed and built by three Parks employees. Constructed from discarded granite paving stones, this artwork pays tribute to the Canarsie Indians who fished and harvested oysters in this area before the Dutch settlers arrived.
The Promenade itself is not actually parkland but is owned by Transportation. The park proper includes only the landscaped gardens between the walkway and the private residences. However, Parks maintains and protects the entire Promenade with the generous support of various volunteer groups. Their efforts ensure that generations can visit this spot to contemplate the ever-changing landscape of New York City.
Sunday, Apr 04, 1999