Real Estate

Field Trip: Domino Park

I was iffy on a visit to the new Domino Park in Williamsburg because I thought it’d involve either the L train (I don’t change trains lightly anymore) or the ferry (I’m tried of the walk to Pier 11). Then I realized that Domino Park isn’t far from the J/Z line’s Marcy Avenue stop, which has the added benefit of an outdoor train ride across the Williamsburg Bridge and an elevated station. If you don’t love an elevated station, I don’t know what to do with you.

“Domino Park is a five-acre public park located along the East River in Williamsburg, Brooklyn,” says its website. “Built on the site of the former Domino Sugar Refinery, the park is a tribute to the diversity and resiliency of generations of Domino workers, their families and their neighborhood.” Seriously, the stuff people think they have to say these days…. The park is clearly an amenity for the four huge residential buildings that will abut it. But why be tetchy? It’s a new park! And it’s beautiful!

I started from the southern end, just north of the Williamsburg Bridge. The road along the park’s east side, River Street, is not yet open to cars, which was nice. And I’ll run a photo of the map, but the park is neither hard to find nor navigate—it’s a strip.

A dog run, a pair of bocce courts, a beach volleyball court, a playing field—in other words, a lot of stuff was of no interest to me, personally, but pleasant enough to walk by. (I do wonder about the fake grass in the dog run; hope they can clean it well.) The old refinery building in the background will be converted to “creative office space.”

Artifacts such as syrup tanks, screw conveyors, and gantry cranes are deployed to add character and reference the area’s former life as a sugar factory.

The most popular areas in the park were the fountain and the playground, which is apparently meant to reference the sugar-refining process, but—much more important—looks like a blast to explore. As with the park in general, both were a microcosm of Williamsburg, in all its non-homogeneous glory.

For a fairly narrow strip, the designers (the park was “conceived by [developer] Two Trees in partnership with landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations) did an excellent job of varying the experience. There’s the requisite esplanade along the water, of course, with astounding views of Manhattan and the bridge. But there are also paths here and there, wooden bleachers to clamber up, and most notably, an elevated walkway in the northern part of the park. I don’t quite understand the why of it, but I enjoyed the vantage point just the same.

Apparently, the area pictured below—reminiscent of parts of Hudson River Park and the East River Waterfront Esplanade—is called Fog Bridge: “A set of misters surrounding the bridge emit a gentle cloud of fog that envelop passersby in the shoreline’s wind patterns, and create a dramatic entryway to the massive Syrup Tanks. This interactive fog experience is lit up at night, animating the plumes of mist throughout the evening.” There was no mist while I was there, which was just fine with me, because the weather was humid enough and I wear glasses. Still, I like the idea. Check out a photo from the park’s website.

The only concession in the site is Tacocina, a taqueria run by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. It’s pretty adorable, with mismatched furniture and crazy views. I found the food legitimately good, especially the beef taco, and I wish this world could have more Tacocinas and fewer Shake Shacks. (What a pity that Hudson River Park and the East River Waterfront Esplanade can’t do anything this well.) The staff was as sweet as can be, too. My only quibbles are that there isn’t enough shade—more umbrellas, please!—and the staff has to yell out diners’ names when food is ready, which must be impossible to hear if more than a dozen people are around.

Speaking of quibbles…. I do hope that the master plan includes restrooms in at least one of the residential buildings, because right now, the only options are trailers. Your first thought upon entering will be, Well, don’t these look nice? Followed quickly by, Oh my God, how long can I hold my breath? With children galore and people drinking margaritas and micheladas, the Satellite Suites aren’t going to cut it.

The park will surely get more attractive as the plants grow in, but I suggest going now—because as the buildings to the east go up, it’ll feel more hemmed in. While you’re there, you might also explore the area around the bridge, which still has some of the industrial feel that used to define all of Williamsburg. And/or you might do as I did and walk back across the Williamsburg Bridge—unlike the Brooklyn Bridge, bikes are on a separate path, and there are no vendors. Halfway across, there’s a bridge between the two sides—pedestrians on one, bikes on the other—and you can see Domino Park in its entirety. (Click the photo to enlarge it.)

Previous Field Trip posts:
Long Island City
Two Bridges
Governors Island (Reprise)
Storm King Art Center
Red Hook
Sunset Park
Bay Ridge
The Met Breuer
ICP Museum
Noguchi Museum & Socrates Sculpture Park
The Fisher Landau Center for Art
The High Bridge
The Broad
Crown Heights
Spuyten Duyvil
New York Botanical Garden
Bed-Stuy
The New Whitney Museum
Bushwick-ish
The Rockaways
Greenpoint
Wave Hill
Governors Island
F.D.R. Four Freedoms Park
Litchfield County, Conn.
One Wall Street
Behind the Scenes at Grand Central Terminal
The Howard/Crosby Microneighborhood
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
East River Ferry
Museum of American Finance
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