Though Williamsburg’s Domino Park is only celebrating its second year in operation, it has quickly established itself as a model for open space, as well as a forum for the surrounding community.
“Access to public space along the waterfront is important, and something that we’re proud to provide,” said Michael Lampariello, director of Domino Park. “Our overarching goal with the park is really to be a community resource for the neighborhood.”
The five-acre stretch of greenery spans nearly a quarter-mile along the East River, from Grand Street to South 5th Street. It was created by Two Trees Management as part of the company’s redevelopment of the former Domino Sugar Refinery.
Embedded throughout the linear park are industrial artifacts of the site’s history, allowing visitors to uncover New York’s connection to the sugar industry as they stroll along.
Two Trees Management privately funded Domino Park’s construction, and continues to foot the bill for the space’s maintenance, rather than transfer control to the Park’s Department.
“For a city with a shrinking budget, and that has become inundated with other challenges and obligations, this is a new model for how parks can be developed,” Lampariello explained.
According to a 2015 measurement by New Yorkers for Parks, Williamsburg had only one park or playground per 1,000 residents, one of the lowest park-to-people ratios in the city.
To date, the park has seen nearly 2.5 million visitors and hosted more than 200 events. Local advocacy group El Puente has commissioned a series of murals for Domino Park since its opening.
The latest artwork is a collage depicting frontline workers in the coronavirus crisis.
Domino Park has been spotlighted during the pandemic for its creative efforts to make sure patrons can enjoy the outdoors safely.
In mid-May, park staff painted 30 “social distancing circles” on the astroturf Flex Field, each six feet apart from the other, a move that was both cost-effective and easily facilitated due to the autonomy that comes with private funding.
In response to the Department of Sanitation eliminating its compost bins and drop-off points due to COVID-related budget cuts, Domino Park scaled up its own compost program to help fill the void.
Twice a week, on Mondays from 10 a.m. until noon and Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m., Domino Park staff is accepting food scraps from residents.
“We still feel strongly that DSNY should start composting again,” said Lampariello, “but in the interim we are happy that we can provide this additional service to the neighborhood.”
He estimates that the park accumulates nearly 900 pounds of waste per drop-off day, which is subsequently processed on-site.
The resulting compost is used within Domino Park, as well as donated to visitors, community gardens, and other green spaces throughout the area.
“What we’ve realized during the last few months is that this is an incredibly important time for parks and public spaces,” Lampariello added, “both as a resource for the pandemic and also as a platform for the more recent protests. We’re really proud that we can serve as a site for both of those functions.”