“Oooh, slide. Water! Swing. Tunnel slide! Water! Whoa. Eaaaaaaaah!” This was my 2.5 year-old son’s first impression of the new Pier 6 Playground in Brooklyn Bridge Park. With 21 swings, slides, a water play area and a 6,000 square foot sandbox it’s a playground on steroids. And with so much going on it’s hard to do at less than breakneck pace, especially if your child loves playgrounds as much as mine does.
Here, swings are Tarzan-rope style. Slides are all double-height and reached by rock- or tower-climb. The water area, the size of most neighborhood playgrounds, is dominated by tall boulders, geyser-like water jets, and a giant water table. The sand “box” is more like a beachfront neighborhood block, complete with wooden houses.
The scale of most attractions does seem to favor bigger kids, but kids under 3 years old will love it too - just be prepared to swing, climb, slide, and get very wet with them. To be frank, I didn’t mind because I found myself just as eager to try out the equipment as my son was!
Pier 6 is at the very end of Atlantic Avenue between Brooklyn Heights and Red Hook. At first glance, it looks like a beautifully landscaped skate park. Hills and valleys lined with grass and garden beds slope and slant to create distinct areas of play with names like “Swing Valley” and “Slide Mountain.” The water area is lined with rock beds artfully arranged to create a cove effect with hints of a jungle around two of the slides.
This playground is so spectacularly well-done, I felt like I should—and even wanted to—pay admission to be there. Seriously, if you have a summer beach share, cancel it now. There’s enough sand and water, and even a few little wood houses, to make this feel like a get-away.
On to the Action
At the center of the park, two geodesic rope domes and a Christmas Tree-shaped wooden tower lure children big and small to test their climbing skills. Once they manage the rather tough climb up into the tower, they are rewarded with a steep tunnel-slide ride back to earth. The tower’s internal ladder and deck system were too much for my son to handle alone and barely wide enough for me to negotiate when I eventually had to come up to spot him. Once up, I had no choice but to ride down—poor me—getting a quick thrill and gray metal stains on my shorts. It’s not a setting for wearing clothing you’d mind getting dirty – or wet.
To enter the water area, kids ford a small stream while ducking and dodging a system of geysers embedded in the rocks. There’s a dam, channel and water drilling complex to one side echoing the working waterfront just the south of the park. Adjacent to the water area is a beach-sized sand pit. You’ll want to visit this before, not after, the water if you don’t want your kids’ skin to turn into sand paper.
Not everything was good for smaller children. We missed the rope swings dangling from gracefully curving wood arms but they were extremely popular with big kids as well as adults. However, while it was the park’s first day in action, it never felt over-crowded — the arrangement of the path, fence, and landscaping system creates natural flow that draws visitors from one area to the next.
We stayed a full two hours and could have easily gone on longer if it weren’t such a schlep to get home. That’s Pier 6’s big drawback for now—it’s off the beaten path. For those close to the B61 or B63 routes, there is a stop right at the park, but otherwise, coming in via 2, 3, 4, M, N and R to Borough Hall or F to Bergen Street involves walking nearly a mile. Biking is probably the easiest option, with plenty of bike racks near Atlantic Avenue and along the waterfront near the Water Taxi to Governor’s Island. There is a car park beneath the One Brooklyn Bridge Park condo complex.
Bathrooms and a fancy snack concessions area with a rooftop deck are in the works, but for now visitors will have to make due with port-a-potties and an ice cream truck. The closest food and drink is several blocks uphill on Atlantic Avenue. There you’ll find kid-friendly restaurants like The Moxie Spot and The Chip Shop or Height's Deli on Henry between Atlantic Avenue and State. But if you want to stay close to the action, your best bet is to bring food with you.
Even with these inconveniences, Pier 6 gets a huge thumbs-up. The park is sure to become a regular destination for Brooklyn families. My son is still talking about it!