New York gets greener

(Above) Domino Park, in the Williamsburg neighbourhood of Brooklyn, opens this month. (Left) The Hudson Park and Boulevard, an in-progress open space at the Hudson Yards mega-project
Domino Park, in the Williamsburg neighbourhood of Brooklyn, opens this month. PHOTOS: NYTIMES
(Above) Domino Park, in the Williamsburg neighbourhood of Brooklyn, opens this month. (Left) The Hudson Park and Boulevard, an in-progress open space at the Hudson Yards mega-project
The Hudson Park and Boulevard, an in-progress open space at the Hudson Yards mega-projectPHOTOS: NYTIMES

New parks are mushrooming around the city and many of them are open to the public

NEW YORK • If New York appears a little greener this summer, it is no mirage.

New parks are coming to life across the city, many courtesy of new apartment complexes, which, in addition to the usual extras, are offering swathes of switch grass and swamp oaks, waterfalls and fountains, benches and boulder-lined paths.

And although these nods to nature are created by developers and are on the grounds of condominium and rental buildings, you will not need to have an apartment there to enjoy them.

In a change from the residents-only courtyards of the past, these open spaces are truly open and, despite their private roots, can be used by the public.

"It's a different kind of amenity," said Ms Lisa Switkin, a senior principal at James Corner Field Operations, the landscape design firm behind Domino Park, which is opening this month in the Williamsburg neighbourhood of Brooklyn in New York, at a former sugar factory.

"It's not like they're your parks," she said, as they are not the exclusive preserve of owners and renters. "But, wow, you do still have parks right outside your door."

Typically mandated by zoning laws, these private-public hybrids are an effort to balance the demands of the real estate industry with the needs of the public, especially where projects have the potential to significantly alter the landscape.

And the upside is notable.

From the far west side of Manhattan to Fort Lee, New Jersey, velvety, shared lawns are being created where they were once a rare sight and, in some cases, even helping to turn a relatively remote area into a destination.

Yet critics say some of the parks, like those in the Greenpoint neighbourhood of Brooklyn, are too small and fussily designed to be of much use if a few friends just want to kick around a soccer ball.

Ironing out the details of who maintains and finances the upkeep can also cause delays and potential hiccups.

While city-run parks and playgrounds tend to have a shared visual vocabulary, these new parks have distinctive elements, as most are being created by a different developer.

Domino Park, an inventive 2.4ha, 400m stretch on the East River by the Williamsburg Bridge, for example, has a new road cutting through it.

Inserting the road, a continuation of nearby River Street, was voluntary and not required by zoning, according to Two Trees Management, developer of the Domino site, a work-in-progress with offices and apartments planned for five buildings on a 4.4ha site.

"A busy street is meaningful, a New York thing," Mr David Lombino, a Two Trees managing director, said. "This is not a club, so you want interactions between tenants and the public."

Planted with salt-tolerant swamp white oak trees and sweet pepperbush plants, Domino Park also offers more curious attractions.

Corkscrew-shaped metal shafts, once used for stirring sugar, are clustered like a grove of saplings. Other preserved relics include two large aqua-coloured cranes that were used to haul cargo from ships.

Not every area encourages passive contemplation. There is also a volleyball court, added in part to honour a sport popular with Williamsburg's long-time Latino population.

For-profit ventures such as this used to be frowned on in public parks. But as the financial burden of caring for parks has shifted to the private sector from the city, restrictions on businesses are less common, say developers, real estate brokers and designers.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2018, with the headline 'New York gets greener'. Print Edition | Subscribe