Repurpose an important piece of industrial past on Brooklyn’s Waterfront

The Tanks

An incredible industrial relic is currently being demolished, without public consultation and despite a momentous petition that has garnered over 1,000 signatures in under 2 weeks. Over the course of four years of tireless advocacy, designers, environmental scientists, and civic activists led by Karen Zabarsky and Stacey Anderson have worked to save and breathe new life into ten industrial tanks on Brooklyn’s waterfront.

The City of New York’s decision to demolish them, and destroy their unharnessed potential, is an enormous loss for Brooklyn’s cultural and civic heritage. Hidden in plain sight in Williamsburg, Brooklyn are breathtaking relics of the waterfront’s layered, industrial history: ten decommissioned oil tanks with the potential to be re-imagined as a truly 21st-century park, worthy of Brooklyn. The possibilities to reuse these structures as public amenities for community use were virtually endless.

Early designs included vertical gardens, performance spaces, oyster hatcheries, art installations, among other uses. Through years of research with our environmental team, consultation, and community engagement, The Tanks team determined that preserving the structures would not only give the chance to create a dynamic, interactive, and educational public space, but would have been the more affordable, safe, practical and sustainable option. The demolition of the tanks is estimated at a cost of $22.1 million and risks releasing toxic fumes into the air.

Adaptive reuse would have been safe, sustainable, and—by preserving some of New York’s irreplaceable civic history—ensured that future generations would have had a place to learn and discover their shared past. Although New York is losing its chance for an inventive and forward-looking public space, cities around the world in Spain, Israel, Korea, and others are embracing the Oil Tank typology as the basis for innovative cultural uses. We hope that other cities learn from New York’s loss. Source and images Courtesy of PLANE—SITE.

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