Bush Terminal Park is the best Brooklyn park you’ve never heard of

The view from Sunset Park's Bush Terminal. Photo via Scott Steinhardt /Brokelyn

The view from Sunset Park’s Bush Terminal ain’t too shabby. Photo via Scott Steinhardt /Brokelyn

In 2014, a major revitalization project began to change Sunset Park. Next to the neighborhood’s decommissioned piers and shipyards, new occupants started to replace the multitude of adult video stores and industrial warehouses near the shore. Industry City opened, and along with it came a rash of expensive food options with odd operating hours. Micro Center, a Best Buy competitor, opened its doors (with a Bed Bath & Beyond due to join it in the coming months). Once-occupied buildings were being reoccupied by newer, hipper tenants willing to pay a lot more. For a place that kept quiet for the last decade or so, it sure was making its fair share of noise.

Among the new retail chains and makeshift EDM venues, however, was a small piece of heaven tucked away behind condemned warehouses and leftover trolley tracks. After decades and planning and two years of building, Bush Terminal Park quietly opened its gates in November of 2014 on the corner of 43rd Street and 1st Avenue. Yet nearly two years later, residents living in proximity to the park still do not know of its existence.

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Bike over to Bush Terminal and enjoy the view. Photo via @vermilionink on Instagram.

Bike over to Bush Terminal and enjoy the view. Photo via Lisa Aurigemma/@vermilionink on Instagram.

If you’re looking for the next Prospect Park, you’re certainly not going to find it here. Bush Terminal is fairly simple in its offerings. Within it lies two ballfields made of synthetic turf. A paved path wraps around the park, and a bike path runs lengthwise on the eastern side of the park. There’s a beautiful rock jetty that juts into the river with one of the most stunning views of southern Manhattan that you once could only get from a boat. In the center of the park sits some of the cleanest public bathrooms in the city, made out of old shipping containers and other recycled materials.

While this might sound like just another parcel of once-contaminated land reconditioned into a nice thing for folks to look at, it is so much more. It’s an oasis, of sorts, surrounded on three sides by run-down docks and dilapidated warehouses that don’t detract from the park’s beauty. As nearby warehouses are converted into work-share spaces or satellite offices for major corporations, the park acts as a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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A park for all seasons. Photo by Scott Steinhardt/Brokelyn

A park for all seasons. Photo by Scott Steinhardt/Brokelyn

It’s a place for adults to run, kids to run around, and everyone to enjoy a simple moment to breathe while admiring the bustling parts of the city in the distance. Even with ball games going on, it’s one of the quietest places I know of in the city, and I’ve spent countless hours on the jetty, writing, thinking or just ducking out of city life for a bit. It’s also common to see bird watchers out in full-force with binoculars and telescoping camera lenses. The Billion Oyster Project has set up shop to restore oysters in the area.

The park’s history is fairly typical for riverside parks in the city. It used to be an illegal dumping ground that became a major environmental hazard and was shut down. It stayed that way until 1997, when the city started to reexamine the land and see if it could be repurposed. They started to clean the area up in 2006, until they broke ground in 2012.

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After an afternoon at Bush Terminal Park, hoof it over to Irish Haven for cheap brews. Photo via Dave Rosado/Brokelyn

After an afternoon at Bush Terminal Park, hoof it over to Irish Haven for cheap brews. Photo via Dave Rosado/Brokelyn

There’s not much in the immediate surrounding area aside from the park and numerous warehouses. Save for a bar and a gentleman’s club on a nearby avenue, your best options for food and drinks are at least a 15-minute walk or 10-minute bike ride away to neighborhood highlights like the always-great Tacos El Bronco, the retro bowling alley Melody Lanes and solid dive bar Irish Haven. Yet the lack of any major attractions on the westernmost side of the neighborhood is exactly why Bush Terminal park still remains relatively unknown by those living nearby.

Regardless of its lack of popularity or proximity to other parts of the neighborhood, it’s still well worth the trek. When you’re heading toward it the first time and walking through the endless stretch of boarded-up, red brick buildings, you might question why you’re wandering around a random part of south Brooklyn. Once you see those gates, however, you’ll never think of going anywhere else.

Follow Scott for more off the beaten path park news: @ScottFromNY.