East River State Park Update: Day One Brings Rules, Explanations, and Early Close
Some updates from Saturday evening, as East River State Park's first day drew to a close:
During the day, the main park entrance was switched from the gate at the foot of North 9th to the one at North 8th. The small gate at the dead-end of North 7th - down by the MTA fan plant - was also opened.
Two rules were posted on signs just inside the main gate: "NO DOGS ALLOWED" and "NO BICYCLES BEYOND THIS POINT". We think the latter is just poor shorthand for "Walk - don't ride - your bike inside the park", but that remains to be seen.
The park actually began closing around 7:30 pm - not 8, as advertised. A very likable, somewhat harried park manager named Felix took great pains to explain that the park was understaffed - he'd been there since 6:30 am and was exhausted. There was tangible disappointment among the 50 or so folks who were enjoying the beginnings of a glorious sunset. But everyone filed out in orderly, if somewhat reluctant fashion.
Felix did a great job working the crowd as he gathered "Stay Out of the Water" signs from the shoreline in preparation for closing. He approached nearly every group individually, explaining that the early closure was temporary: eventually the park would be open until dusk, and seven days a week. But (a year after most of the park prep work was complete) there's still no fresh water connection for watering the trees and grass (indeed, the freshly-mowed grass looks bone-dry), no public restrooms beyond a few porta-johns, and no electricity to power the temporary park office trailer.
When pressed on whether the limited hours is a staffing or a money issue, he explained "a little of both".
On a positive note - Felix mentioned that barbecuing IS allowed in the park, so long as you bring your own grill. That seems too good to be true, given the park's other restrictions; we'll keep an eye on how that develops.
He also explained that as a community park, the management would look to see how the park is utilized by neighbors, and try to adjust policies accordingly. That said, here's some early advice from a neighbor. While the staffing / budget issues are being sorted out, we propose the following compromise in park hours:
Keep the full days on weekends, but stay open until 8:30 or 9 pm so folks can enjoy the sunset.
Open the park Monday through Friday from 5 pm until 9 pm. There's got to be 20 hours payroll per week somewhere in the state's budget. Williamsburg is a late-day neighborhood (try to find breakfast - or even a human - before 11 am on weekends). The other waterfront park - Grand Ferry - is nearly empty in the morning and throughout weekday afternoons, but gets a good crowd every day around sunset. East River State Park's sunset-watching potential beats the pants off Grand Ferry's - but not if its watched through the iron fence.
One final note of sanity from Felix: yes, the park IS open this Monday, for Memorial Day.
More Opening Day Pics [Flickr]
In Brooklyn, Modest Space, But it Does Have a View [NY Times]