Long barred to the public, a stone-covered archway beneath the Manhattan Bridge in Dumbo is being reopened for public access this summer, revealing for the first time in decades the elegant public space designed by renowned Beaux Arts firm Carrère and Hastings, which created both approaches. Thanks to the advocacy of the Dumbo Improvement District, the archway is also expected to serve as a stage for a variety of public programming, as well as a temporary summer site for a public marketplace known as the New Amsterdam Market.
Much of the new programming, including the market, has yet to be formally announced pending city approvals, according to the district, which emphasizes that discussions with public officials are ongoing. “The Dumbo Improvement District is working closely with the Department of Transportation and the City of New York to readapt and unveil The Archway,” the district said in a statement. “Plans are in the works for many exciting programs; we have been approached by the New Amsterdam Market among others. In the spirit of Earth Day 2009, we are glad to reclaim this incredible community space.”
The reopening of the historic archway, which is already publicly accessible, marks a significant milestone for advocates who have slowly been reclaiming the urban fabric around the bridge’s piers. “The archway connects Dumbo east to west. It’s crucial to the development of the neighborhood,” Kate Kerrigan, executive director of the improvement district, said in an interview.
Work on the archway, which had previously been used for storage by the Department of Transportation (DOT), will improve pedestrian connectivity while providing a number of new design features to make it more amenable to the public. In collaboration with the improvement district, Rogers Marvel Architects has designed benches for the 45-foot-high, 7,000-square-foot space, along with subtle lighting to improve safety and to highlight the original architectural elements.
The new space would offer a stunning—if provisional—backdrop for the New Amsterdam Market, a project spearheaded by Robert LaValva, a former planner for the Department of City Planning who has evangelized for the role public markets can play as both civic gathering spaces and a key link in the sustainable supply chain. “My interest in urban systems comes from my background as a planner, in how the surrounding region can supply the city,” he said.
LaValva ultimately envisions a permanent showcase of purveyors that runs year-round indoors and offers a wide variety of goods, similar to the Borough Market in London or Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. He has long had his eye on the old Fulton Fish Market, but the ambiguous status of the South Street Seaport has made that site unavailable, at least through the summer. While LaValva continues his quest for a year-round location, he would welcome a temporary summer space under the Manhattan Bridge, perhaps setting up once per month, he said. “The archway is a wonderful space for a market,” LaValva told AN. “But the goal remains to find a permanent home.”
If all goes as planned, the market is expected to make its debut at the archway on June 28. However, an official reopening date for the public space has not been set, and much of the site’s programming is still being formalized, according to the improvement district, which expects to announce archway events in the coming weeks.