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Squibb Park work underway in the Heights

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Brooklyn Heights’ next big makeover is underway — the resurrection of the long-defunct Squibb Park into a gateway to the new Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Renovations are underway for the sunken, 70-year-old park at Columbia Heights and Middagh Street — the beginning of a project that could one day include a bridge from Squibb Park to Pier 1.

For now though, Squibb Park will be reopened after new fencing, landscaping, a wide staircase at the park entrance, and skate park elements are installed.

It’s enough to make even the hardest of the Heights go soft.

“It’s going to be beautiful, and great for the kids,” said Paula Smiley, a 20-year Heights resident. “I’m a little worried that it will create too much action, but most people here are thrilled.”

Some other residents worried that a new park — a skate park, to boot — would attract hooligans, but the majority shared Smiley’s opinion. The Brooklyn Heights Association, for example, has been lobbying for a new park since it closed in the 1980s.

“Back then, people felt the park was unsafe — people used to go to parks to shoot up and snort,” said Judy Stanton, executive director of the venerable civic organization. “People would go into the ‘comfort station’ and do bad things. Plus, it was next to the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway. If you needed help, no one would hear you call.”

Squibb Park closed because of regulations requiring that an employee work the comfort station — basically a shack with bathrooms and an attendant — during park hours. The new park, she said, will be an inviting hangout for all ages, and there will be a park employee on hand.

The renovations will be finished by mid-summer, the city has said.

But the second phase of the project — the $5-million bridge extending over Furman Street down to the pier — is hogging the spotlight for the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, which wants to build, but lacks the funds.

The bridge was all but nixed last year when Mayor Bloomberg announced his budget woes. But now that the city has taken over maintenance and operations of the $350-million Brooklyn Bridge Park and allocated an extra $55 million to its construction, the Squibb Park Bridge is back on the table.

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