South Williamsburg’s Domino Park is finally finished and open to the public, and it is a gleaming example of what approximately $50 million can do with six acres of prime waterfront property. Funded entirely by Brooklyn mega-developers Two Trees Management, who are also responsible for the mini-city of luxury apartments springing up where the Domino Sugar Factory once stood, this undeniably lovely quarter-mile park and esplanade amounts to a fantastic amenity to all new and future residents of site. Fortunately for the rest of us, it’s one amenity that they have to share with the public.
Domino Park was designed by James Corner Field Operations of High Line renown, and it uses many of the same visual tricks and aesthetic choices that made the latter such a smashing success. At the southern end of the park, hard by the Williamsburg Bridge, there’s a dog run with a nifty, organically-shaped mound in the middle that makes the tiny pen seem much larger. Next comes a fake-turf playing field upon which people were lounging until a bunch of kids started a game of soccer, followed by a full-sized beach volleyball court that turned into a massive sandbox as soon as the players walked away.
As they did at the High Line, the designers left industrial relics and bits of machinery in place throughout, adding character and breaking up the space. Four towering tanks that once collected syrup mark the beginning of the middle section of the park, featuring a cut-out on the esplanade looking down into the East River where a giant misting machine goes off without warning, much to the delight of everyone around; and one of those choreographed water-jet fountains that children find irresistible; and an instantly popular playground by artist Mark Reigelman, a series of climbing and sliding structures that evokes the manufacturing process of the sugar factory.
Here also is Danny Meyer’s new Tacocina, where you can munch on cheese chicharrones and any of the half-dozen tacos on the short but appealing menu in a comfortably spacious seating area. There’s also beer, wine, and booze available.The final stretch of the park seems to be the most chill, with a row of wooden chaise lounges looking out over the water, a modest lawn for sunbathing, and a cool metal skywalk beneath turquoise gantry cranes. There are worn-out rails snaking through the gardens, screw conveyors among the trees (of which there about 175 in all), and all of the wood used in the park is reclaimed from the factory floor.
Looming behind it all, of course, is the crumbling, gutted factory itself, which once produced more sugar than any place on the planet, and, just one block over, the futuristic hollow square building 325 Kent, where people are already living in $4,400-a-month one-bedroom homes. Yesterday afternoon the park was not exactly packed, but certainly plenty busy. One can only imagine what the crowds will be like once all 12 acres of the Two Trees luxury community are finished, and everyone living there wants somewhere to go outside.