It is Brooklyn’s secret garden.
Sunset Park’s Bush Terminal Piers Park has been open for almost a year, but locals say the scenic waterfront green space is so hard to find amidst the industrial wilderness of First Avenue, the only reliable way to discover it is through word-of-mouth.
“Somebody has to tell you about it,” said Tommy Batista, a neighborhood teen who found out about the park through a friend. “You can’t just walk around and find it.”
The park, located between 43rd and 51st streets, offers soccer and baseball fields, a bicycle path and esplanade, and two saltwater tidal ponds — not to mention a gorgeous panoramic view of the Upper Bay and a picturesque vantage of the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan, Staten Island, and the New Jersey shoreline.
But many Sunset Parkers have never caught a glimpse of the bounty in their own backyard, say locals.
Several massive industrial structures obscure the park from foot and vehicle traffic along First Avenue — all of them housed inside a vast, eight-block lot surrounded by razor-wire and signs warning that “Trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
And it isn’t visible from its single entrance, located at 43rd Street and First Avenue, which is flanked by chain-linked fences, factory warehouses, and a private security check-point.
The lucky few who have found the park say it is a green oasis amidst the brick and concrete industrial landscape.
“It’s a s----- area to walk around in, so [the park] is really nice to have,” said Shira Entis, who co-owns Fleabags handbags company on 44th Street and learned of the park through her United Parcel Service driver.
But the garden was never intended as a private sanctuary.
Sunset Parkers began demanding a waterfront park for the neighborhood in the ’90s, and the city eventually agreed to build them one on the long-abandoned Bush Terminal piers — former brownfield sites that city, state, and federal agencies then spent more than 20 years and $38 million on cleaning-up and transforming into parkland.
The city finally opened the park in November last year, but its work isn’t done, says one local official — it still needs to make sure locals can actually find and access the park.
“Has enough been done? No,” said Jeremy Laufer, district manager of Community Board 7, which encompasses Sunset Park.
Laufer says he has asked the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which built the park, to work with other city agencies to install an additional entrance and signs offering directions for park-goers. The Department of Transportation, which is responsible for the signage, says it hasn’t received any official requests from the corporation, but that it will add new signs as part of an upcoming project to make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to go between Sunset Park’s residential areas and the waterfront, which it will begin building in summer next year.
But some users would happily keep the park on the down-low. The handful of organized sports clubs that have caught wind of the waterfront recreational area say space there is never an issue.
“We don’t really have to worry about sharing,” said Neomi Vasquez, who coaches the AC Brooklyn International soccer team and learned of the park through her boss.
Others are only bothered by the park’s short hours — it closes at 8 pm during the summer, and earlier during other seasons — and the lack of facilities for young children.
“I’ve got four daughters,” said Yuval Duenyas, a Staten Island resident whose construction business often brings him to Sunset Park. “A playground would be nice.”
But he also loves having the parkland almost to himself.
“I walk around here all the time, and I only just found it,” said Duenvas, who found out about the park through an employee. “It’s always nice and it’s never crowded.”