Tom MacWright

I read A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park by Nancy Webster and David Shirley on


I had high hopes for his book. I run along the water in Brooklyn Bridge Park pretty often. The piers are lovely. It’s mostly a great part of the Brooklyn experience, and I was really interested in how and when it came to be. How long did it take? What were the other alternatives? Why were piers no longer useful for shipping?

This book answers some of those questions. I learned a lot from the first chapter or two about the history of shipping and some early Brooklyn history, in broad strokes. And then there’s plenty of detail in the community engagement involved in creating the park.

That said, this is a book written by, about, and in favor of NIMBYs. It’s outrageously biased in their favor.

It introduces the main protagonists, Brooklyn Heights residents, several of them ultra-wealthy bankers, all of them white, all of them explicitly, repeatedly concerned about the views from the windows of their apartments.

Then they try as much as possible to forget that. It’s not just the rich white people, it’s the community who wants the same things as them. No details on what that community is, not much on any specific people who are not white Brooklyn Heights homeowners. And it takes their claim that it’s not just “about the views” seriously, even though “the view” is #3 on their list of 13 principles, and #1 and #2 essentially amount to “listen to us tell you about the views.” One of the community groups involved was literally called “Save Our View Now.”

The park is good. I wish it was more useful, and that it was built decades earlier and they could have built public housing along with it, as with the original plan.

But overall: I think we collectively should just say: fuck a view.

We can’t see the housing crisis, in large part caused by supply shortages, zoning restrictions, and neighborhood opposition, and see NIMBYs as anything less than responsible for homeless people dying on the streets. The homeowners had to preserve their views.


  • A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park by
  • ISBN: 0231171226
  • ISBN13: 9780231171229
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  • Published:
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press