The transformation of Brooklyn Bridge Park has completely vitalized downtown Brooklyn’s waterfront, making it a “must see-must do” and virtually free destination for travelers. The area, which according to the Brooklyn Historical Society was once the site of “bustling commerce, a transportation terminal, an entry point for immigrants,” has now been revitalized into what’s described as a “world-class park.” And the “things to do” list grows as construction continues this spring. Despite some city politics that continue bubbling behind the scenes, I’ve yet to find a visitor who isn’t amazed to see and participate in what’s going on down at the waterfront.
Pier 1, which is accessible by the East River Ferry, Water Taxi, car and subway, offers views of downtown Manhattan as well as the Brooklyn Bridge. At the pier (or adjacent) you’ll find playgrounds, Barge Music, greenery, and food and drink—including Lizzmonade (fresh-frozen lemonade -also found by the Pop-Up Pool), the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, and The River Café.
Located by Pier 1, the Granite Prospect provides a spot where travelers can sit and take in the view of New York’s harbor on massive granite steps that stay cool in the summer and warmer in the fall months. According to Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, the steps are “built from stones salvaged from the Roosevelt Island Bridge reconstruction.” This is also the site of many free films and live performances.
Walking south, Pier 2 provides five acres of physical fun space. Basketball courts, handball courts (with
some of the best players around), turf for running and exercising, and shuffleboard will allow people of all ages to get their game on. An outside fitness equipment gym allows you to train for free by using your own body weight to work out as you look across the harbor towards the Statue of Liberty and Roosevelt Island. What a breathtaking way to work out. And the machines are ones that keep kids engaged. There are also three ADA certified pieces of equipment as well as swing sets that are ADA certified. Picnic tables will give you a place to sit down, and relax. The “piece de resistance” that opened summer 2014, is the roller skating rink. Depending on timing, you can enter for free or a minimal price, and you can bring your own skates or rent both skates and “skate buddies.” (For those that need a little help as they’re learning!) They offer birthday parties, and word on the street is that in the future, the rink will accommodate ice skating in the winter months. (Note: it currently only offers roller skating.) Kayaking classes also take place off this pier.
Continuing along, you’ll find the “Greenway Terrace,” by Pier 3. With two large lawns (signs are posted letting you know no dogs, no bikes, and clean up after yourself), and a “sound attenuating hill”—this stretch of park is amazingly quiet and serene. Various art exhibits (such as Dan Vo’s “We The People”) are on display through the Public Art Fund. Truly, behind the hill you’d have no idea that the Brooklyn Queens Expressway is behind you or overhead. In the wintertime, the gentle sloping hill may make for a beginner spot for little ones for toboggans and sleds.
As you come towards Pier 4, it’s time to hit the beach. It’s small, but there is sand and water, tidal pools (both natural and man-made) that may give you a glimpse into water and plant life, and that also attract a number of sea-birds to the area. This area may pose the largest challenge in the hot summer months, as there’s no swimming permitted, and the temptation is large for families with children who want to head into the water.
By the time you hit Pier 5 you may want to stop and sample the ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery, cook-out at the “Picnic Peninsula,” or go fishing from the pier (there are bait preparation tables and cleaning stations—although the city does caution that pregnant women and children under 15 should not eat fish caught here-so you’ve been warned. But for soccer fans, here’s your spot of choice. There are multiple fields with configurations that work for “soccer, lacrosse, rugby, flag football and ultimate Frisbee,” according to park experts, as well as shaded areas and benches for spectators.
Pier 6 offers up beach volleyball courts (a sport that is a LOT harder than it looks!), Fornino, a brick oven pizzeria, and some of the best playgrounds around. Swing Valley accommodates all sizes and ages, Slide Mountain has slides two stories long, and on hot days, the “water lab” will have adults experimenting as much as the kids.
The historical society has partnered with Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy to reveal a project that allows park-goers to learn more about the history of the area, see pictures and signage from many of the original sites at the waterfront while they visit. Visitors have the ability to access their website and use smart phones and mobile devices to take walking tours as they walk. There’s plenty to see, do and learn about without spending a cent!