Erie Basin was once dubbed, 'the busiest place in the Port of New York', but its now known by other, less flattering names. 'Condom central,' one Red Hook resident reportedly called it; an NY Post article gave it the title, '$1Bn blunder'.
What happened to this one time titan of industry? The answer is simple: Ikea.
Flat-Pack Furniture Eyes Erie Basin
Erie Basin used to be zoned for heavy industry. From 1869 right through to the 21st Century it was the home of Todd Shipyards. By then, however, it was all but out of use, and another company had started to eye up the space, a certain Swedish Furniture Giant.
Ikea set about convincing the NYC Planning Commission to rezone the land. Despite protests, it was eventually agreed that the company could open a shop in Erie Basin on one condition: they use the land next to it to build a monument to the area's rich industrial history.
And like that Erie Park was born.
Commerce Meets Art In Erie Basin
Ikea wasted no time in bulldozing the old Todd Shipyard and building their shop. Meanwhile, a landscape architecture firm was hired to build the state-mandated park next door.
The architecture firm salvaged what it could of the old shipyard: ropes, tools, shipping cranes. In a sense, the space they created is pleasant. But in another, much more literal sense, it is a strip of asphalt between a huge shop and a disused bit of river.
Still, with its panoramic views of Red Hook it could be nice enough were Ikea to take care of it. Unfortunately, Erie Park means nothing to their bottom line.
Erie Park Is Overrun
Since it opened, in 2008, the park has gained a reputation as a hook-up spot for teens, a place of beer bottles, used condoms and all types of litter. It's most popular feature by far is the free water taxi carting Ikea shoppers away, back to Manhattan.
It is a testament not so much to the area's industrial history as to what happens to the unprofitable elements of public projects when left in private hands.
'You have to make a judgement whether Brooklyn has gotten equal value for the zoning change,' the park's architect said when it first opened. If the state of Erie Park wasn't enough to suggest a resounding NO, then what happened next is.
'Brooklyn Needs More Drydocks!'
Not long after the Ikea store opened, the NYC Economic Development Corporation declared that Brooklyn needed more ship repairing facilities, just like Todd Shipyard, so recently destroyed. Building a replacement dock would cost an estimated $1bn. There was little room for doubt, the NYC Planning Commission had made a monumental mistake, and the monument they had earned themselves in return was, well, Erie Park...
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