As many of the piers that make up Brooklyn Bridge Park have been transformed into areas designed for "active recreation"—a roller-skating rink, basketball courts, a carousel—a more peaceful oasis has been taking shape at Pier 6, on the waterfront park’s southernmost end.
Even though part of Pier 6 has been open to the public for some time (the uplands, which include the volleyball court and playgrounds), the whole shebang was finally completed last fall. "It’s this beautiful, natural landscape enveloped by these great lawns," says Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, who recently took Curbed on a tour of the space.
The last piece of the puzzle was the half-acre garden on the pier itself, which is filled with lush vegetation and native plants, including milkweed, aster, and ragwort. The space, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, is both "a thriving ecosystem and highly ornamental garden," says Rebecca McMackin, the director of horticulture for the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation.
Fields of flowers make up most of the landscape, but there are lawns hidden amid the blooms—including one wide-open expanse close to the waterfront—along with trees and shrubs that will act as wind-blockers once they’ve had time to grow to their full height.
Myer calls the design of Pier 6 "Olmsted-ian," referring to the famed Central and Prospect Park architect’s affinity for rolling fields and pastoral landscapes. There’s no mistaking that you’re in New York City when standing in the middle of Pier 6—the Manhattan skyline is a constant presence—but the landscape is designed in such a way that encourages peaceful meandering. Myer explains, "part of the richness of the design is that its very organic," leading visitors to the end of the pier, where the views of Manhattan, Governors Island, and Buttermilk Channel come into view.
Another exciting aspect of the new parkland is its animal life, which has been more robust than expected; according to McMackin, different species of insects and birds have made their homes there, along with a surprisingly large number of monarch butterflies. For her, it proves that "you can incorporate biodiversity into even post-industrial landscapes that are hugely popular with people."
And in the fall, students from Macaulay Honors College will conduct the school’s annual BioBlitz there, tracking every species of animal life (including those in the surrounding waters). "This is such a new park, and it takes time to build biodiversity, but it gives us a baseline to build from," explains McMackin.
So what’s next for Pier 6? Martin Creed’s rotating neon sign, Understanding (a collaboration with the Public Art Fund), has occupied the waterfront for a few months;. There are no immediate plans to replace it once its run ends in October, and the planned Bjarke Ingels-designed viewing platform is on hold for now. But as Myer points out, the flower field is designed for nearly year-round use, and plants (including evergreen trees) will continue to bloom well into the fall—there’s no bad time to visit, really.