08 July 2008

Erie Basin Park

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.


Ken Mac said...

i agree, nice job

Anonymous said...

"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."

And do what, have Times Square go back to being the piece of trash porno dump it used to be? Yeah let's let all of Manhattan go back to being a dump.

jspencer said...

Corporations are not all evil. As you pointed out, Disney did a wonderful restoration of the New Am and, for better or worse, helped clean up times square and arguably had a massive hand in turning NYC into the major tourist hotspot it has become (by making it safer, more accessible to families, etc.) Ikea also brought something that was, as you point out, much needed to an overlooked neighborhood.

It's the same story with the John Varvatos store in the old CBGB space. Punk is dead, the business was unprofitable, and the area was already in the process of being gentrified (Whole Foods and 45 Bond, anyone?). They merely took advantage of the situation and, I might add, payed great homage to the building's roots (if anyone bothered to go in the store, rather than just protesting outside, they would have seen this. It's almost like a museum).

The common thread between all 3 examples is that the corporation did what it could to maintain and enhance the area, rather than just steamrolling over it and building a new condo tower. And Ikea is even providing needed bus and ferry service to the area for free!

I appreciate that you recognize the effort put in by Ikea and Disney and don't completely crap all over them, as much as we all wish their intervention wasn't necessary.

What we all need to understand is that public money to work on these areas will never be available in the same amounts private money is. Is this necessarily the most beneficial thing? No. It's merely reality.

*Bitch Cakes* said...

Those pictures are wonderful! I can't wait to see this for myself!

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Gosh, ILMC, hate to get personal, but I can't think of a more un-NYC username than yours. I like things clean as much as the next guy, but if clean is all you want from a city, why did you pick this one?

Anonymous said...

A couple years ago I spent five hours waiting to testify about
NOT builidng an Ikea on the
Red Hook waterfront --- I have to
say I was wrong. The Erie Basin Park is one of the most public spaces in New York. Kudoss to Ikea.
Jane T.

flow-properties.com said...

I can't believe it took me this long to get to Ikea & the park. I went yesterday and it is absolutely beautiful. Glad they found a way to transform the old eyesore without removing its character.