The openings of the Brooklyn and the Manhattan Bridges, plus the rise of trucking and railway transportation, originally spelled doom for the bustling waterfront that made Brooklyn an international shipping hub in the 19th century. But by the ‘60s, much of the shipping activity had stopped and the park was opened in 1978 at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Today, nine acres of grass have replaced the gravel and dirt that covered the site a century ago. An expansive wooden boardwalk, built in 2002, now stands where piers once were, although two hulking warehouses serve as reminders of the site’s industrial heritage. Several tall trees and the Brooklyn Bridge provide shade for the sun-weary. On clear days, the park offers picturesque vistas of Lower Manhattan across the East River.
Warehouses Two old warehouses on the ground—the four-story Empire Stores warehouse, which once held coffee, and the Tobacco Warehouse—have been nationally recognized as historic landmarks and are among the few surviving examples of their type. The Empire Stores, much of which is closed to the public, houses the park’s administrative offices, a series of historic photographs of the site and restrooms. The Tobacco Warehouse is regularly rented out for weddings, corporate functions and parties and is open to the public when not in use.
Moorings Two rusty moorings salvaged from the site before it was converted sit in front of the Empire Stores warehouse and are fascinating not just for their substantial size but as historical pieces harkening back to Brooklyn’s heyday as a seaport.