Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Williamsburg's East River Park: Don't Forget the Sunscreen

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East River State Park in Williamsburg is moving a bit slowly thanks to all the rain, according to a well-informed source who went to people working on the new park to get the scoop. The mid- to late-July opening target is slipping because the rain has made the new lawns too soft for "the inevitable thousands of Chuck Taylors and platform boots tearing them up."

The source's source says that the state hasn't said much about the park so as not to raise expectations about an opening date. As for the park's barren look, that won't change any time soon. The budget is exhausted and officials want to "preserve a decent amount of the site’s historical character." The area is certainly historic, having served as part of a rail terminal from which Brooklyn's vast industrial output was once shipped, but everything on the site was demolished and covered over long ago. So, it sounds like landscaping Williamsburg's open space is not a priority. We would wager that once the luxury apartments that will soon rise south of the site open, the state will hire some landscape architects to make something more of East River Park.

Don't get us wrong. We're not making light of the need for more open space in Williamsburg and for waterfront access. In this sense, it doesn't matter what the park will look like. It will be great to get to the river without having to crawl through holes in fences. Speaking of which, however, East River Park will be fenced in so that officials can shut it down at dusk. Workers have also been making progress on putting up a nice, black fence around the property.

Meantime, the huge concrete pads at Kent and North 7th will remain on the site, although they may be yanked in the future. As for the skate park that some thought would go there: No go. The State Parks Commissioner--who presides over one of New York's most anal retentive, rule loving bureaucracies, doesn't dig skaters or the anarchic vibe they exude. (We're in shock.)

The interesting part will come when the park does open and Williamsburgers are introduced to New York State Parks culture and its rule-enforcing Park Rangers. Not too long ago, the Daily News wrote about complaints about tough enforcement of rules at NYC state parks like Empire Fulton Ferry Park in Dumbo and Gantry State Park in Long Island City, where offenders are routinely confronted by Park Rangers about their dogs, bikes, cameras and the like. (The rules say: No bikes. No dogs. No bridal pix without a permit. No cameras with tripods. No videotaping. Etc. And so forth.)

To keep all this in perspective, there was a time when the Pataki Administration was working on a deal with NYU to turn the entire property over to the school for sports facilities. So, what's a Park Ranger chasing you down for walking your bike on a path?

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(All photos are courtesy of 11th Hour Productions.)

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