Preview James Corner Field Operations’ New Brooklyn Park

Metropolis toured the soon-to-open six-acre park, which features a 1,200-foot-long esplanade and a series of industrial "artifacts" salvaged from the Domino Sugar factory.
Domino Sugar Factory Park James Corner Field Operations

Portions of the park’s platform were raised three to seven feet from their previous levels, elevating the entire park well above the site’s 100-year floodplain. This also makes the park level with the Domino Sugar Factory redevelopment site. Courtesy Aether Images

Four 36-foot-tall steel cylinders, once containing thousands of gallons of sugar syrup at Brooklyn’s old Domino Sugar Factory, now stand front-and-center at Domino Park. The six-acre landscape, which is set to open this June, features some 30 different factory “artifacts” selected by New York–based landscape firm James Corner Field Operations (JCFO), which led the park’s design. Old warehouse columns will support an elevated walkway; metal screw conveyors formerly used to move sugar (think enormous drill bits) will stand as steel sculptures, and ferry-goers along the East River won’t miss the park’s two enormous turquoise cranes. While these artifacts, along with a factory-inspired playground, may steal the show, the project features a wide range of spaces that the architects and developer hope will become a vibrant public space that serves local residents.

Domino Sugar Factory Park James Corner Field Operations

While JCFO is designing the park, SHoP Architects was responsible for the development’s overall master plan. SHoP also designed 325 Kent (the shorter O-shaped structure at center-right), one of the development’s residential buildings. Courtesy Aether Images

The park was commissioned by the developer Two Trees, the company that’s behind the adjacent 11-acre mixed-use Sugar Factory redevelopment. When complete, the development will feature 2,800 residential units (of which 2,100 will be market rate and 700 affordable), 600,000 square feet of commercial office space, and 200,000 square feet of retail. The project hasn’t been without controversy, both for its luxury units and its design for the landmarked factory. By 2014, Two Trees reached an agreement with the city regarding the number of affordable units. Last year the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the design for the factory.

While the entire development now has the greenlight, most of it hasn’t been built. The only complete building is the copper- and zinc-clad 325 Kent, a residential project by New York–based SHoP architects. Three other skyscrapers, plus an office building that will rise within the old Sugar Factory’s 19th-century masonry shell, will be built over the next several years.

Domino Sugar Factory Park James Corner Field Operations

The plan for Domino Park. River Street, an existing North-South road, was extended through the site and will run alongside the park. Courtesy James Corner Field Operations

These new buildings will sit in blocks created by the extension of several existing East-West Brooklyn streets through the redevelopment site. The lengthened streets (Grand Street, and South 1st through S. 4th Streets) will all meet River Street, another existing road that’s been extended through the site. According to Lisa Tziona Switkin, senior principal at JCFO, these multiple street grid connections are an important gesture that communicates that the park is indeed open to all.

While Two Trees is paying for the park’s construction and upkeep, JCFO worked closely with the New York City Parks Department during the design process, ensuring Domino Park would met the agency’s standards. JCFO also says it conducted large- and small-scale community outreach to determine what amenities, such as the volleyball court, should be built. The park will also be fully open to the public from dawn till dusk. (In fact, the city is holding some of Two Tree’s money in escrow; those funds can be taken in the event the developer fails to maintain the park.)

In designing Domino Park, JCFO allocated the most active public programs (a 1,750-square-foot dog run, two bocce courts, a 6,300-square-foot multi-use playing field, and the volleyball court) closer to the noisy Williamsburg Bridge, which supports eight roadways and two subways. The center of the park, which includes a large stepped viewing platform and a water feature, aims to attract large gatherings. The park’s northern half features what JCFO calls more “passive uses,” such as a food stand, picnic tables, playground, lawn, beach chairs, and an elevated walkway. The walkway, which is flanked by two bright turquoise cranes, will undoubtedly be the park’s signature feature, as well as welcome shelter during hot summer months. The walkway, says Switkin, “doubles as a two-block long shade trellis.” That, and the addition of six acres of parkland to a neighborhood severely lacking green space, will be welcome relief.

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Categories: Landscape, Planning