The Best Playground in NYC: Pier 6

You think this is dangerous...

Pier 6 at the Brooklyn Bridge Park is probably the best playground in New York City, and is the best city project since the High Line!

We finally visited the playground this past weekend. I was reluctant to buy into the hype, as I was sorely disappointed by the playground at Pier 1 (aka the scalding spheres of doom!) But I was blown away by the scale and design of the Pier 6 playground. Nate made a beeline to “slide mountain” and the giant Tee-Pee slide, which reminded me of the rocket jungle gym I used to play at as a kid, (it was later deemed a huge risk to children.) The biggest problem I see with it is kids climbing up, and then afraid to go down the slide, and it is tight quarters for an adult to rescue a tyke. Nate scrambled up to the top like sherpa and after a little trepidation went down the slide, and loved it. It was only after I saw the sign “ages 5-9.” Nate will be 3 in August. There is also a long mountain slide and a crazy rope jungle gym.

now THIS was a dangerous slide from MY childhood!

The”The Water Lab” was next, which is a boulder strewn winding stream with sprinklers, sluice, and an Archimedes’ screw. It really is a small water park with a Myst-like quality. Really beautiful with lots of things for kids to play with, and lots of spots for parent to sit just far enough away not to get wet.

We hit “Sandbox Village” next, which claims “may well be the largest park sandbox in Brooklyn, if not New York City.” I might not be the biggest anymore, as we took a lot of the sand home with us sticking to Nate (I don’t recommend going to the sandbox after the water lab.) We were a little tired to take advantage of “Swing Valley” but it looked awesome as well, (although the name sounds a little too much like a sitcom about ’70’s wifeswapping.)

The response to the Pier 6 PG has been overwhelmingly positive, but that didn’t stop some people from complaining. Some object that the playground is for children only, while New York State Assembly candidate Doug Biviano thinks the playground is dangerous, and wants to round all the corners and edges (but probably just wants any attention for his campaign.)

My Tips:

Go early, as this place gets packed by noon on weekends

Watch the street crossing at Atlantic and the BQE (that crossing can be pretty hairy)

Bring swimwear for the kids (if you don’t let them in the water park they will go ballistic)

Don’t be paranoid about your DS or DD hurting themselves.  A child could just as easily get a skinned knee on the sidewalk running to get in the park as they could on one of the Biv’s ominous boulders.

This playground really is incredible, and with the current economy, I don’t think we’ll see anything like it for years. So enjoy now before they run out of money to keep it up, or some over-protective nervous nellies ruin it.

Prospect Park West Bike Lane Underway (and Why the Opponents of It are Wrong!)

Hooray! They are finally building the bike lane on Prospect Park West.  I’m not sure why  something that will make streets safer, and reduce pollution is controversial, but apparently the Brooklyn Paper and Marty Markowitz are doing their best to make it appear controversial.

The dedicated bike lane will take away one lane of traffic from Prospect Park West. This will slow down speeding traffic and give bike riders a safe place to ride on a major road.

The opponents have a few misguided arguments:

“It will slow down traffic!”
They are correct, taking out a lane will slow down traffic, but that’s the point! Traffic needs to slow down.  PPW is like a drag race! Try taking a dawdling 2 year old across PPW, hoping you’ll make it across in time before the cars speeding from the Grand Army Plaza starting line make it to your light.

“There’s already a bike lane in the park!”
There is a meandering road in the park (filled cars at rush hour.) It is great for a nice scenic ride, but terrible for commuting.

“We will lose parking spaces!”
True, a few parking spots will be taken by the bike path entrance ramps, but the coincidental elimination of the B69 bus will make up most of those lost spots.

When I wrote Marty Markowitz about this issue, and his resistance to the PPW bike lane, he did respond promptly, but he really doesn’t get it. Here is what he said:

“Like our DOT Commissioner, whose professionalism I respect, I too support cycling in this city and have not only supported bike lanes like the ones on 9th Street in Park Slope and Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, but have also been a major proponent of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a 14-mile on-and-off street bike lane that connects Greenpoint to Sunset Park. Without my office’s support and advocacy the Greenway would not be happening. What I am opposed to is bike lanes on Prospect Park West, which will both take away needed parking for residents and park-goers and interrupt access of pedestrians to the park during peak usage in summer and on weekends. There are better options to explore that would meet everyone’s needs—such as adding traffic lights to calm traffic, and adding another bike lane to the park itself. By the way, as borough president I advocate for bikers, and also for those who do not live near public transportation, those who cannot bike for various reasons, and yes, those families and residents who chose to own a car in this borough.”

Like a true politician, Marty practically breaks his arm patting himself on the back regarding Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. (And I’m not even going to mention how crazy it sounds when tries to make car owners seem like an oppressed minority?!?) Although the real disconnect is that Marty and other opponents think the bike lanes are for recreational cyclists. But the new push for bike lanes like the one on PPW is that they are not being made for cyclists on their weekend tool around the park.  They are creating an environment for bicycle commuting and transportation. These bike lanes are trying to get New Yorkers to use alternatives to cars to get around, like they seem to ba able to do it in the rest of the world.

Take a look at the rush hour commute in Utrecht Holland-

A Playground Grows in Brooklyn

UPDATE: New Pics on Gothamist!

A number of years ago, my wife and I looked at an apartment on Hicks St. in Brooklyn Heights, which we affectionately refer to as “The Rabbit Hutch,” very cute, and very small. Like most of Brooklyn Heights, it was still too expensive, but the real reason we rejected it was the lack of green space and parks in the area. If you live in a rabbit hutch, your going to have children, and they need parks.

I am now kicking myself like Thumper, as there now there seems to be an abundance of parks in the area. The latest, the yet to open Pier 6 Brooklyn Bridge Park, appears to have a jaw droppingly awesome playground. Brooklyn Paper got a preview of the on going construction, and the playground will include Slide Mountain, Swing Valley, and Sandbox Village. Hopefully they will skip the “Scalding Orbs Town” that they have at the pier one park.

It’s scheduled to open in June is supposed to also have a volleyball court, picnic area, and dining concessions from Ditch Plains Drop In, a Calexico Carne Asada truck, Blue Marble Ice Cream and Pier 66 Maritime, a wine bar, so parents can unwind while they await the paramedics to treat their child’s 3rd degree burns from the red-hot metal domes, and the broken clavicle from the 20 foot tee-pee slide fall.

I kid! The PG looks awesome, and I’m really looking forward to Nate putting it through its paces.

Look at an interactive map of all of  Brooklyn Bridge Park here, or check out the live camera of the construction of the pier one park, it may serve as a guide to the sure to be huge line at Blue Marble.

Return to the Gowanus Canal

Super Fun Super FundJust felt compelled to say something about the Superfund status recently given to the Gowanus canal.

Everyone agrees that the canal needs to cleaned up. But here has been a lot of debate as to who should do it.  The EPA is now saying they will take the reins, sue the people responisble for the pollution, and clean the canal in 12 years.

Mayor Bloomberg thinks the city could have cleaned up he canal more quickly by getting polluters and developers to voluntarily contribute to the clean up.

Mike, really? C’mon!  Toll Brothers wanted to start building right away, toxic waste dump or not.  Developers don’t care about the consequences. Build, sell, move on.  That’s the developer creedo!  The canal has been an industrial dumping ground for over 100 years. It will take at least a dozen years to clean regardless who is doing it.

Really, Mike?

I mean, really?!?

I feel bad for the residents who are upset because of the stigma and loss in property value that comes with a Superfund brand.  But trust me, that stigma would be a lot worse if it wasn’t cleaned up, and people started developing cancer and high rates of birth defects.

But we really should look at what’s important, and that isn’t property values, or how long its going to take.  What is important is knowing the risks of living on a toxic dump.  And the thing that really scares me isn’t the mercuryleadPCBs, that they already now is there, but god knows what else is buried in the muck that they don’t know about.

Having the feds decontaminate the canal isn’t ideal (the government is never swift), but they do have a decent track record for cleaning up some of the worst hazardous waste sites. And at least they are not on some real estate developers pay roll (as far as I know.)