Last month, the Williamsburg waterfront got a facelift with the opening of Domino Park. The first piece of this massive redevelopment project is a six-acre public park complete with a playground, elevated walkway, and water feature. On a nice summer day, the park — from developer Two Trees Management — is teeming with Brooklynites strolling, biking, and enjoying the view of Manhattan across the river.
Design studio James Corner Field Operations, known for their work on the High Line in Lower Manhattan, took a previously unusable space and retrofitted it to serve the community. The bright teal theme and modern-industrial design are visually dissonant against the backdrop of the dark, empty Domino Sugar Factory — a relic of 19th century New York. The refinery ceased production in 2004, and until 2012, the vacant building and shipyard was only visited by adventure-seeking urban explorers.
The larger redevelopment of the 11-acre piece of land is set to include commercial office space as well as four modern residential buildings. One of the most recently completed is the stunning luxury high-rise at 321 Wythe Ave(schedule a tour here!).
The sugar refinery’s history was obviously top of mind for the Domino Park designers. The “Artifact Walk” repurposes an old concrete walkway that leads to two large cranes, now painted teal. In their working days, the cranes lifted raw sugar cane off boats and hoisted them into the warehouse until it could be refined. Today the cranes serve as the striking visual focal point. There are other nods to the property’s past, like the use of salvaged tools and materials sprinkled along the quarter-mile long park, and the gardens placed in what were once the crane tracks.
The park’s designers would have been remiss to ignore the rich and somewhat tragic past of the storied refinery. The site has seen massive fires, like one in 1917 that burned down most of the complex and prompted a crowd of over 15,000 people to come out of their homes and watch it burn. The factory was also the site of the largest labor strike in New York City in 1999, which lasted nearly two years and involved over 250 workers. The park marries the gritty past of Williamsburg’s waterfront refinery with the sleek and polished present. To ensure the park will be there for years in the future, it was built on an elevated platform that will be able to withstand rising tides and storms.
Aside from its fascinating history and design, it is simply well-used space. The hallmark of an effective park is how many different types of people are able to enjoy it. Domino Park checks all of the boxes with a wide array of features including a dog park, fountain, and open green spaces. Two of the biggest draws of the park are its playground (designed by Mark Reigelman) that is a miniature version of the sugar refinery, and permanent taco shack
Tacocina(brought to you by restaurateur Danny Meyer).
In a neighborhood that has seen so much change in the past decade, it is beautiful to see a development that repurposes history to create a public space for people from all of walks of life to create, relax, and enjoy delicious tacos — with a beautiful view to boot.