The other day, I finally biked down to Beard Street to take a look at the new IKEA and see how big and blue and popular it was. But I got sidetracked by the entrance to the new Erie Basin Park that the Swedish giganto built around its store, and soon decided to put off my visit for another day.
I'm not one for handing corporations compliments, but I have to admit that I was rather floored by the park. First of all, it's pretty huge. I was on my bicycle and it seemed to go on forever. Second of all, it provides fairly unexampled access to New York Harbor. It's shoreline all the way, something Red Hook's always needed. Thirdly, while IKEA can rightly be blamed for having trashed a lot of Red Hook's maritime history (Todd Shipyards and all its records, anyone?), it did salvage some of it and incorporate it into the park. An 18-foot compass is set into the ground. There are colorful sculptures of thick rope and many large yellow bollards (those knobby things you tie the ropes to). Big cement chocks ("A heavy fitting of metal or wood with two jaws curving inward, through which a rope or cable may be run") bear the names of 24 ships—many with interesting and romantic names—that were once repaired on the site. And, of course, the four towering cranes that have been preserved and dot the site. like so many Imperial Walkers on the ice world of Hoth.
Additionally, there are informational panels that describe various aspects involved in the mending of a large ship. Meanwhile, out in the water are rotting and ghostly examples of old docks, warehouses and ships, giving the area the feel of a living museum/graveyard of Brooklyn's waterfront past. The sense if history is palpable.
Say what you will, IKEA did a great job on this park. It's a bit like Disney and the New Amsterdam. If I had my way, I'd rather have Disney out of Manhattan for good. But I never want to give up their restoration of the New Amsterdam Theatre.