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Brooklyn Bridge Park’s lush lawn at Pier 3 debuts

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With the opening of the park’s answer to the Great Lawn, it’s now 90 percent complete

Another summer, another section of Brooklyn Bridge Park debuts: As of today, Pier 3—the last of the waterfront space’s five piers-turned-parks—is open to the public, adding five acres of lush open space to the Brooklyn waterfront.

It also represents what Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation president Eric Landau calls a “watershed moment” for the park; it’s now 90 percent finished, a decade on from its initial groundbreaking.

“I keep thinking of Pier 3 as our version of a Long Meadow or a Great Lawn in Prospect and Central Parks, respectively,” Landau says. “This is sort of our answer to that—our version of having this large open space.”

The large open space he’s referring to is the centerpiece of Pier 3: an acre of grass that’s almost certain to become one of Brooklyn’s most popular spots to hang out. It’s situated between Pier 2’s abundance of ways to play (swings, basketball courts, a roller rink) and the huge soccer field at Pier 5, and the placement of what is essentially a large field there is no accident.

“One of the things that I love about the park’s total design is that the piers themselves rotate their use from active recreation to very passive,” Landau explains, and this spot falls firmly into the latter category.

But there’s still places for play on Pier 3; another section is what the park calls an “exploratory labyrinth,” filled with different elements meant to entertain “for kids of all ages,” per Landau. Those include sound installations (there’s one where you could live out an outdoor version of that famous scene in Big), things to climb, and a series of fun house mirrors that reflect the landscape.

The new pier will also bring more seating in the form of picnic tables and Adirondack chairs, as well as an open plaza that’s envisioned as a flexible space—it could be used for musical performances, talks, and other events.

As with the rest of the park, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates is responsible for the landscape design, which brings an abundance of greenery—some 550 trees, along with thousands of shrubs and other plantings—to the once-industrial berth. A new walkway connects the space to the park’s winding paths and uplands.

But building what’s essentially its own mini-park atop a disused pier perched on wooden piles isn’t exactly easy. “Driving piles into water that has sort of a rocky shoreline is not without its challenges,” says Landau. There are also weight issues to consider; to get around those, a base of GeoFoam was used to create the pier’s new hills and pathways, with the sod and trees plopped on top of that.

The result of those efforts is a lovely respite—one with stunning skyline views, to boot—though how long it will stay that way remains to be seen. According to Landau, the park had 5 million visitors last summer, and it’s entirely possible it’ll see that many, if not more, this year. “The entire park is really responsive to what people want,” Landau notes. “Clearly, we are a place where people want to be.”

So what comes next for BBP? According to Landau, there’s a good chance that the park will be completed in its entirety by the time 2020 rolls around. Three sections are left to finish: the Pier 2 uplands, where the pop-up pool is currently situated; the recently announced permanent pool at Squibb Park; and the area beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, which will connect the park’s Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights sections.

“It’s not like it’s an 85 acre park that is built easily, because we’re building on waterfront piers that are held up with timber woodpiles,” Landau notes. “So I don’t think it is an understatement to talk about it as an extraordinary accomplishment for this park, for this borough, for this city.”