Brooklyn’s Sweetest Sensation Is a New Park on the Site of a Former Sugar Factory
A new waterfront park is opening in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood this weekend — and it promises to be the borough’s summer hot spot. Domino Park occupies land adjacent to the former Domino Sugar Factory, which was built in 1856 and was once one of the largest sugar manufacturing facilities in the world. The half-mile stretch of waterfront space—designed by James Corner Field Operations, who masterminded Manhattan’s High Line — is part of a massive mixed-used redevelopment of the area around the factory.
Domino Park is situated just north of the Williamsburg Bridge, and has sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline — but it’s not just for tourists. “There was a very long and extensive community outreach to ensure that the park will be well used by the neighborhood,” says Lisa Switkin, Senior Principal at James Corner Field Operations. At the southern end of Domino Park are a dog run, two Bocce courts, a flexible playing field, and a beach volleyball court, all of which neighbors requested.
The park’s Artifact Walk incorporates salvaged fixtures from the factory, including columns, crane tracks, bucket elevators, cylindrical syrup tanks, and various dials and meters. (Other remnants of the sugar works are sprinkled around the space.) There’s also a Japanese pine garden, a picnic area, an ample sloping lawn, and an urban beach with chaise lounges. In the center of the park is a four-tiered seating area with a playful fountain. Nearby, a space cut out from the ground with a pedestrian bridge running across it gives visitors the chance to observe the swirling river below, as well as original pier pilings.
Sweetwater Playground, which was designed by artist Mark Reigelman, pays homage to the factory’s history with features that were inspired by structures in the original building. The color palette — bright yellow, turquoise, green, and brushed metal — recalls that of the original factory, and the façade of a play cabin is made from salvaged wood from the factory floor. Danny Meyer’s Tacocino will offer upscale tacos, and local restaurateur Missy Robbins plans to open a new venue nearby.
The park’s designers first met to discuss plans three days after Hurricane Sandy pummeled New York, and the team was particularly concerned with flooding issues. “We knew we needed to create something that was resilient, especially because we are on a very turbulent part of the river,” says Switkin.
The park platform was raised a few feet over the new FEMA-recommended flood elevations. The designers also included sustainable plants and a mix of nearly 175 trees, including willow oak, purple leaf plum, and honey locust, that contribute to coastal resilience, ensuring that the park will be around for many years to come.