The event is an annual fundraiser thrown by the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI), a non-profit which has been seeking to establish a public route along the Brooklyn waterfront since the group's inception in 2004. According to the newly presented plan, 14 continuous miles of pedestrian and bike paths will line the Brooklyn waterfront.
“It’s pretty exciting for some people who had an idea 14 years ago and most people were laughing at us,” said Milton Puryear, a founding member of the BGI, whose active support for the greenway dates back to 1998.
The timetable for completion of this project remains uncertain, with members of the non-profit and government both acknowledging that it depends largely on when the funding becomes available.
“The key thing that’s happening here tonight is the city is making a commitment that this will be part of the city’s future,” said Robert Pirani, chair of the BGI board. “Brooklyn will have this great green pathway all along its waterfront.”
Though it may be a while before work on the entire greenway is finished, five miles of it are accessible to the public now, according to Puryear.
In addition to presenting the implementation plan, Sadik-Khan and Velazquez were honorees of the event, and the organizers repeatedly displayed gratitude for their respective roles in realizing this long dreamt-about project. Puryear deemed Velazquez the “godmother” of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, because of her crucial role in legitimizing their initiative.
“When she got us that first $14 million, then people started answering the phone,” Puryear said.
Pirani explained that the congresswoman understood BGI’s vision from the start, and that led to the difference in making the greenway stand out from other initiatives; the funding was necessary to “make it real.”
“This beautiful, beautiful waterfront,” Velazquez said as she spoke to the crowd. “It used to be foreign to our children because we didn’t have open spaces, we didn’t have access.”
According to the congresswoman, however, the benefits of this project don’t stop there as she sees value in more than just the greenway’s ability to make public use of the waterfront’s physical beauty.
She believes the route will also help connect the varying communities that will comprise the 14-mile stretch that reaches from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge, noting that they all worked together to get to this point.
Sadik-Khan followed Velazquez in speaking to the crowd and urged supporters of the greenway to “continue to push” to ensure that more funding finds its way to the project. As it does, the greenway, which has six capital projects in Greenpoint and Williamsburg alone, will continue to develop.