A Running Tab of Dumb Brooklyn Banks Rumors + What Little We *DO* Know

It is no secret that we are living in a ripe age for misinformation. Though as of last week, when the most startling photos of the construction under the Brooklyn Bridge made the rounds, the publicly available facts about the fate of the Brooklyn Banks remain unchanged.

Unless of course, you want to believe that:

A) “Supreme is selling the bricks from the Banks.” Though they may have pulled off selling branded bricks that *checks StockX* go for $190 on the resale market, you have to be a bit of an idiot to believe that bricks from the Banks are being sold at Supreme.

However…

B) “You want a brick? $20.” There’s that old saying about having a bridge in Brooklyn to sell a gullible buyer, and this is perhaps the next best thing: security guards from the site caught wind of the suddenly collectible pieces of skateboard ephemera they were standing on.

Can’t blame anyone for a creative side hustle when faced with our current economic downturn, but one would hope that anyone who actually rides a skateboard is resourceful enough to steal bricks rather than giving a security guard cigarette money for one.

C) “There’s asbestos under the bricks.” This one — ummm, maybe is true?

D) “The Banks are being converted into stores,” as per conversations with the contractors. The thing about our information age is that you can just as easily find the correct information. For this zone — which is underneath a federal landmark — to turn into a mall would come with at least some substantial bit of press.

You can’t sneak a bunch of Sweet Greens under the Brooklyn Bridge and not have hearings, articles and renderings out there for the public to access. Those workers were probably hammered and confused it with another job. There is no information about a bunch of stores being built here, and there are plenty of news outlets in New York that cover real estate and retail.

E) “Nike bought the Banks.” Again, no — though there is not a single skate brand that would not want their name affixed to successfully saving the Brooklyn Banks, a la how Nike helped make the Santa Monica Courthouse a sanctioned skate zone. Maybe after repairs are finished, a brand will chime in with its checkbook and fix everything, restore the small Banks, cure COVID, and everyone will live happily ever after, but the sea levels will probably cover this spot with water before that happens ;)

Not since the days when the city built a mile of skatepark ledges down at the Seaport but wouldn’t let anyone skate them, has there been a spot that generated so many rumors that you could cancel out by the tried-and-true method of using your fucking brain.

Here is what we do know

…which is not much different than what we’ve known for ten-plus years.

A) As per Wikipedia, The Brooklyn Bridge has been designated a National Historic Landmark, a New York City landmark, and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. This is about the largest extent of protection that a building can get; altering any piece of its exterior so it comes out looking different than when it was first built is next to impossible. Whether or not this includes the actual “Banks” is doubtful, but there’s only so much poking around they can do.

B) The AVAILABLE information says that they are restoring the arches — why they saw it necessary to remove the bricks to do so, who the hell knows. But again, developers can’t plug an H&M into the archway of the Brooklyn Bridge without there being a ton of information out there about it.

C) The only thing we’ve found resembling a completion date is 2023. The Banks were first closed in 2010 for bridge repairs (note that this is different from arch repairs), with an estimated completion date of 2014. You saw how that went. Even if they promise to restore the Banks, it might not happen for, um, let’s say a lil’ while.

Right now, the DOT is giving a cut-and-paste P.R. spin on what’s happening there, and it’s like, “Duh, we know.” The urgency amped up in the past ~ten days because they began removing the bricks for the first time, which is a troublesome image for anyone with hopes of the spot sticking around.

D) It is misleading to romanticize the Small Banks as somehow being a part of this, as they were destroyed in 2004 for no reason at all. The visual of how they look today is an air-tight case for why this place should be designated for skateboarders and BMX riders. We thrive in dirty underpasses like no other culture, provided you leave us alone in it. But hey, they restored Southbank, maybe we get the small Banks back before we die?

E) This is a Department of Transportation project, not a Parks Department one.

Parks is invested in the city’s leisure and always has an open ear; The Department of Transportation is trying to keep shit moving. This is not to say they won’t hear us out, just that it is a different beast than Parks, especially with a federal landmark next to One Police Plaza involved.

One thing the effort to save the Tompkins taught us (that was a Parks issue yes), was that these decisions move slow and a lot of these agencies are red-tape bureaucracies on 20th century timelines — even when they want to help. We met with Parks in the second week of July, they told us “We are confident we can reach a resolution. You’ll hear from us in a week, two tops.” Weeks turned to months of follow-ups, only to hear “Working on it.” We got word that the proposed turf was cancelled on September 6.

We are currently in week two of this Banks thing being at the front of everyone’s minds.

So, all that to say this: be patient and continue applying pressure. A sustained campaign throughout the summer is what saved Tompkins. This should not be different, though will take longer. Share the petition, tag @NYC_DOT #nycdot on social media posts of your memories from this hallowed space, call the Department of Transportation and ask for a statement.

Sign the Petition to Save the Brooklyn Banks.

We’ll let you know if we hear anything ;)

Update — May 14, 4 P.M:

Still P.R. spin, but key phrase: “continuous for the next decade.” Everything said above remains the same.

6 Comments

  1. They removed the bricks bc its weak, dirty, cracky and an inconvenient surface for a construction staging area (on a sloped surface too). If there were any retail being built it would be inside of the arches of which the shop drawings don’t show any indications. Could be the construction needs to finish before a proposal can be submitted. 59th st and Manhattan bridges are also landmarks and have retail components in their bases so its not impossible. I highly doubt the shape of the banks will change. The physical shape of the banks is natural topography to accentuate a historical landmark. The work is expensive enough already, let alone to stop traffic for months (not an option), dismantle offramp bases, level the park (or build new retail), and reinstall new stanchions. Whatever happens with the space, it will still need to be open and accessible for future maintenance needs, which is why theyre usually parks around bridge bases. A skatepark is a solid option, and cities have taken a liking to repurposing previously homeless heroin hideout havens With skateparks. Id say keep the full court press going, there is a lot of common ground to reach, and TF shows that impossibles just a skate trick. Also if you see a skater homie acting like a disheveled junky skating on cars and saying “fuck 12” every time they see a cop slap him upside the head

  2. Do you guys ever wonder if normal people look at us the way we look at scooter kids and parkour kids?

  3. Thank you for the article. I have hope the Banks will be saved and made skateable again some day. Please save them!

  4. Presuming its not original to 1883 who gets credit for building the banks? Was Robert Moses also our country’s first skatepark designer?


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