05/06/16 12:25pm

Governors Island doesn’t open until May 28, but in the midst of a monsoon-like spring, we need something to look forward to. This 172-acre pocket of parkland will be unveiling some impressive new features this summer, along with its usual lineup of great events. If you always read about the fun things happening on Governors Island, but never actually end up making it there (or haven’t since Governors Ball was actually on Governors Island all those years ago), this is the year to remedy the situation. As usual, there will be ferries from Brooklyn Bridge Park and along the Brooklyn waterfront via the East River Ferry. And if you fund this Kickstarter, you could actually walk there one day–it’s only 1400 feet away.

Here’s what you can expect on NYC’s fun island this summer:

#1 Governors Island is getting enviable vistas

The view from Outlook Hill as of April 2016. Photo: The Trust For Governors Island

The view from Outlook Hill as of April 2016. Photo: The Trust For Governors Island

Unlike San Francisco, New York City is delightfully flat, which is why you’re able to see for miles on a clear day. But one of the great and let’s be honest, extremely Instagrammable features coming to Governors Island this summer will be the Hills, a series of man-made ridges and slopes that have been under construction since 2013. Each of the new, little mounds are designed around a theme and include Slide Hill, where kids and adults alike are invited to ride from top to bottom on a three story tall, 48.5 feet long slide–NYC’s longest; Outlook Hill, which at 70 feet will boast a gorgeous view of the city and the Statue of Liberty; Grassy Hill, a picnic perfect spot overlooking a baseball diamond; and Discovery Hill, a wooded hill that will feature Cabin, a sculpture by famed English artist Rachel Whiteread at the top. While there’s no opening date as of yet, locals are invited to explore the new area during free hardhat tours until the Hills officially open later this summer. (Curbed got a sneak peek.) (more…)

07/14/15 9:00am
Yes, it's a watermelon keg kit. Photo: Uncommon Goods

Yes, it’s a watermelon keg kit. Photo: Uncommon Goods

After the Fourth of July, you may have had your fill of grillin’ and chillin’. But there are still months of summer weather left to hang outside. In order to make your al fresco dining experiences easier and more fun, we’ve rounded up some items that will let you make the most of the season, with no grunt work. Get ready to chillax. (more…)

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07/03/15 8:18am

Despite its many charms, summer really makes you feel your lack of outdoor space if you’re not a New Yorker lucky enough to have regular access to a rooftop, backyard or deck. Our many amazing state and city parks, from Pelham Bay to the Highline to Marine Park, function as backyard, living room and release valve for the entire city, especially in summer when they offer everything from boating and archery lessons, to overnight camping and outdoor movies–or, simply a leafy green or sandy oasis from the heat of the city. A few of our favorite parks have made significant upgrades just in time for summer, or have other buzzy news to report. Here’s a rundown of what’s new in the green spaces near you.

One of the pavilions appearing this summer on Governors Island. Photo: govisland.com

One of the pavilions appearing this summer on Governors Island. Photo: govisland.com

Governors Island

Just west of Red Hook sits Governors Island, which has undergone serious revitalization over the course of the past few years, and with even more development in progress.

Summer Fun: What can’t you do on Governors Island in summer? Bike the miles of car-free paths, play mini-golf with the kids, eat burgers, steaks, ice cream and more at the Liggett Terrace Food Court in the island’s center, or learn urban farming in the Teaching Garden. That list merely skims the surface of the list of daily activities on the island this summer. (more…)

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05/20/14 9:17am
Bike, hike or just sunbathe; there's plenty to do for an afternoon at Governors Island. Photo: The Trust for Governors Island

Bike, hike or just sunbathe; there’s plenty to do for an afternoon at Governors Island. Photo: The Trust for Governors Island

When plans to improve Governors Island’s parks and public spaces started being hashed out in 2010, the trust responsible for overseeing the expansion decided to open up a forum for public input. They quickly found their comment box full of 10,000 suggestions for how to go about upgrading the island. I personally like the illustrated “Don’t mess this place up or you will sleep with the fishes,” entreaty (threat?) on the Post-it Note below. More than anything, the exercise proved that New Yorkers have a serious soft spot for the former Army base that sits a mere 400 yards from Brooklyn Bridge Park (which is getting its own upgrades this week as well).

Governors Island reopens this Saturday, May 24, and for the first time, this season the island will stay open seven days a week instead of just Saturdays and Sundays. This means more time to picnic on its pastoral lawns and enjoy the amazing views of lower Manhattan’s skyline. But the additional access does come at a cost: Ferries to and from the island, which start this Saturday, are no longer free, aside from weekend mornings at 10 and 11am. After those free rides, it will now cost you $2 roundtrip from Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park (which still runs weekends only), or from the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan, the only ferry servicing the island seven days a week. Downtown ferries on the East River Ferry will stop at the island on weekends only, and cost $6 a ride.

Paying to island hop is a bummer to be sure, but the silver lining here is that there will be a lot more going on once you arrive. Here’s what you need to know about the newly improved Governors Island. (more…)

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05/19/14 2:00pm
Thu May 22, 2014
A new beach, as envisioned in this rendering, and five more acres of recreation space are scheduled to open at Brooklyn Bridge Park this Thursday. Rendering: MVVA/NYC Parks

A new beach, as envisioned in this rendering, and five more acres of recreation space are scheduled to open at Brooklyn Bridge Park this Thursday. Rendering: MVVA/NYC Parks

The piers at Brooklyn Bridge Park have been popular attractions along the East River since being revitalized back in 2010, and this Thursday, two additional piers will open to the public. Pier 2 will provide park goers with five more acres of recreational space, including courts for basketball, handball, shuffleboard and bocce, as well as a full size roller skating rink (opening in late June), swings, picnic tables, restrooms and fitness equipment, while Pier 4 will offer up shoreline access for non-motorized boats to launch. (It will also presumably become an extremely popular spot to sunbathe as it is the only beach in Brooklyn that doesn’t require a 45-minute train ride.) Stay till nightfall on Thursday and you’ll also catch the last Celebrate Brooklyn! dance party of the season at Pier 1, with Afropop greats Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, and DJ collective Okayafrica Electrafrique.

04/22/14 9:54am

Fewer crowds at Lakeside's new roller rink makes it a lot easier to lace up your skates. Photo: Kate Hooker

Fewer crowds at Lakeside’s new roller rink makes it a lot easier to lace up your skates. Photo: Kate Hooker

My boyfriend has a Spotify playlist entitled Roller-Rama that is all hot jams he remembers from the roller skating rink in the town he grew up in: “Candy Girl,” “Supersonic,” “Somebody’s Watching Me.” For my part, I don’t think I can ever hear “Walk of Life” by Dire Straits without being instantly transported back to a middle school birthday party at Happy Wheels. That was probably the last period of my life when roller skating was a semi-regular occurrence for me, so I was relieved to discover when I arrived at the newly resurfaced LeFrak Center in Prospect Park this past weekend that the tunes haven’t changed much in the last two decades. Or maybe the rink was targeting the 10am Easter Sunday crowd that I joined, parents about my age whose young children were hanging on to them and the walls for dear life as they experienced having their tiny feet strapped to wheels for what was probably the first time.

Whatever the reason, hearing Lenny Kravitz’s “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” blaring through the Parkside Avenue corner of Prospect Park as I paid my $14.53 for admission and skate rental made me feel glad that I’d made time during a jam-packed holiday weekend to lace up some roller skates and take a few laps. (more…)

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01/14/14 10:25am
Skating onto the covered rink at the new LeFrak Center, beneath its starry "sky." Photo: Kate Hooker

Skating onto the covered rink at the new LeFrak Center, beneath its starry “sky.” Photo: Kate Hooker

In my pre-global warming childhood, I spent a fair amount of time ice skating. There was always smooth ice a few times a season in the woods near my parents’ house (and miraculously, one frigid year, on the vast expanse of the Hudson River). Unfortunately, though, my urban lifestyle and these weird times of 60 degrees in January have combined to basically excise ice skating from my life for the past 15 years—a sad development because it is an amazing workout that is fun, decidedly unsweaty, and a great way to spend a winter afternoon outside.

The brand-new LeFrak Center in Prospect Park, a $74 million dollar Bloomberg legacy project that offers not one but two state-of-the-art outdoor rinks, delivers the kind of skating I have been pining for. I was there on opening weekend, which meant a few minor headaches, but I was ultimately pretty dazzled by the facility and left feeling optimistic about the ice time in my future.

LeFrak is a five-minute walk from the entrance to the park at Parkside and Ocean Avenues, and if you go at night, the spotlight beams and the Top 40 music wafting through the blackness will guide you to your destination. The building was designed to blend into the park’s landscape as seamlessly as possible, and the deference given to its surroundings shows. The modern limestone structure has a green roof that gives you the impression, from the outside, that the entire facility is housed within one of the park’s hills. At any rate, it is difficult to grasp that two enormous, interconnected skating rinks—one covered and one completely open-air–lie behind the unassuming facade.

Like most things that are worth doing in this town, skating at LeFrak on a weekend is an idea that occurs to a lot of people, and waiting in line is simply part of the deal. There was one line to buy entrance tickets ($8 on weekends), another line to rent skates ($5), and a third line to rent a locker from one of only two ATM-like kiosks ($5 for 3 hours). If you are lucky enough to have the sort of life that allows for a weekday skating jaunts, take advantage of it and avoid the crowds. For us working stiffs who have to rely on weekends, though, I recommend carrying anything of value in your pockets and leaving your shoes under a bench because that locker nonsense was almost a deal-breaker. Also, if you own skates, bring them, not just to skip another line but because the rental skates at LeFrak are, at least in my experience, foot vises that cut off all circulation below the ankle, dig into your flesh in strange places to the point of bruising, and generally prevent you from being upright for more than fifteen minutes at a time. And yes, they were the right size.

The pop-up rink at the Seaport, accessible by ferry, and adjacent to a shipping container bar, promises even more fun at night. Photo: South Street Seaport

The pop-up rink at the Seaport, accessible by ferry, and adjacent to a shipping container bar, promises even more fun at night. Photo: South Street Seaport

Those complaints aside, the ice itself was spectacular. Although there were hundreds of skaters, there was enough space to really glide along without that unsettling feeling common to crowded rinks that you might at any moment be slide-tackled by a wayward, unsteady child. The covered rink is marked for hockey and well-lit for the games and figure skating lessons that will take place there, but I was really impressed by the ellipse-shaped adjoining uncovered rink. Dimly lit by the moon and a few spotlights, it is bordered at first by seating for the rinkside café and then by the dark, vaguely foreboding park at night. Skating out to the far edge under the stars was thrillingly reminiscent of the pond-skating I did as a kid and brought back a feeling I was never able replicate at Chelsea Piers or the rink at Rockefeller Center.

The other new Brooklyn rink, McCarren Rink, was set up in the pool site until it closed for the season on January 4, much to my surprise and probably many others who expected the rink to stay open through winter. Although it’s gone until next fall, the McCarren Rink was open until 10pm every night of the week, making it possible to imagine an evening skate under the stars becoming a regular habit if you live in or frequent North Brooklyn. The rink was small and could get crowded, but the skates were comfortable and you could bring your own lock and throw your stuff in the pool lockers for free, which was a nice touch. My one critique: the ice was in terrible condition when I was there and in desperate need of a pass by the Zamboni I saw sitting idle nearby. People were getting stuck in grooves and falling all over the place, which was actually sort of fun for a few minutes but wouldn’t be ideal for either a serious skater or a cautious beginner.

Another, smaller-scale skating experience that’s still open (and more akin to the Rock) is the pop-up rink at South Street Seaport. Skating on the Hudson this is not: on a recent weekend morning, there were about 30 people on the ice and it already felt cramped, but there was something undeniably cool about skating around smack in the middle of Fulton Street, with the backdrop of Financial District skyscrapers looming. Happily, the skates felt like Uggs compared to the torture devices at LeFrak, but admission and rental will run you a cool $18 per person, which did seem expensive for such a small rink. The hours make it appealing to anyone who can take the ferry there or go after work–the ice is open until 9pm on weeknights (LeFrak closes at 6pm Monday through Thursday), and an adjoining bar in a converted shipping container suggested that it would be a fun place for a date, when the skating itself might not be the evening’s main event.

For more detailed information about LeFrak Center’s hours, pricing, and lessons click here. Details on the rink at the Seaport here

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12/18/13 10:05am
Fri December 20, 2013

TWBTA-Prospect ParkBloomberg may not have made the city more affordable, but he helped make its parks bigger, better, and more spectacular than any other mayor in our lifetimes, leaving us with plenty of green space to forget, for a moment, what we spend on rent. This Friday, another crown jewel of his legacy opens–Prospect Park’s $74 million dollar Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Center (a name familiar to anyone who has ever passed beautiful LeFrak City on the L.I.E.). What that means for us this winter are two mammoth ice rinks, one covered by a green roof whose ceiling resembles a starry sky, and an uncovered one closer to the lake and reminiscent of skating on a frozen pond, like New Yorkers did in Olmstead & Vaux’s time. While it seems strange that anyone would miss “the old funky crappy homely rink with its barebones facilities and unhealthy snack bar,” as one commenter claimed he would on this video preview of the rink, the Robert Moses relic couldn’t deliver the year-round fun the new LeFrak Center will, when it turns into a water play area and roller rink from April through October. Park goers can also now enjoy 26 restored acres of the park’s Lakeside section, including eight acres we never even used before. Starting Friday at 9 am, you can get a rink-side glimpse of this gift to the city seven days a week, for $6 on weekdays and $8 weekends (skate rentals are $5). Enter at the Parkside and Ocean Aves. entrance.

11/21/13 3:54pm

It took North Brooklyn Farms, planted in Havemeyer Park in the shadow of the Domino Sugar Factory, less than a year to evolve into a fully-functioning urban farm, complete with flowers, dinners, and, of course, produce. From submitting a proposal to Two Trees Management Company, the group behind the Domino development, in January, to getting approved, to growing the seeds for the farm in their apartments in March, to construction in spring, to opening in July, co-founders Ryan Watson and Henry Sweets proved that it was possible to create beneficial green space for the community in any part of New York, or in this case, a parking lot.

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“My goal in starting this farm was to explore what is possible with an urban farm in the city and to try to make as much productive green space as possible,” Sweets said. “I think that being in a vegetable garden in a city, in an active productive landscape, provides a different experience for people than just being in a landscape garden. It resonates with them and registers with them
and just makes them feel better.”
(more…)

10/01/13 6:13pm

squat-jumps-3-8-12_0249-300x227Summer gets all the credit for being an outdoorsy season full of swimming, beach times and bike riding, but really, wouldn’t you rather be outside in the fall, especially when you’re planning on breaking a sweat? Rev up your autumn workout with Beastanetics. Taught by personal trainers Tim Haft and Shana Brady, Beastanetics is a high intensity workout in McCarren Park that really is both challenging and accessible for a huge range a fitness levels. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s also really fun, and very rewarding. Classes are on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6:45am, 8am or 9:15am; from warm-up to post-workout stretching the whole thing takes about an hour and is an insanely mood-enhancing way to start your day. The upcoming session starts on Oct. 15 and goes through Nov. 21. Try it out at Bushwick Inlet Park on Sunday, at 9am if you’re curious–the first class is always free.