When I first moved to Brooklyn, I barely registered that my home was near a park. See, this park was more concrete than green, and most of that green was turf. This park was long and narrow, and flanked by tall municipal buildings that just look like they’re about to levy you a fine. This park, I was told, created a ferocious wind tunnel that whipped through the neighborhood, my street in particular, at ten times the speed of, you know, the other wind. When I first moved to Brooklyn, there was nothing especially welcoming about Cadman Plaza.
It is easy to form blind spots here. Necessary, even, to shield and shape attention; there is too much here for one person to safely absorb. Believe me, I have tried.
For a long time — a shockingly long time — I paid no attention to Cadman Plaza at all. My gaze fell upon her sexy younger cousin, Brooklyn Bridge Park, more than a few times, and forsaking the more convenient option, I braved the wobbly footbridge to this hot, lush young thing for downtown views and Ample Hills. But don’t you think a footbridge built with intentional wobble, but so much wobble as to be architecturally unsound, is trying just a bit too hard? Cadman Plaza, on the other hand, does not try at all — the physical embodiment of “it is what it is.” All parks are women, but Cadman Plaza embraces the particular masculine energy of a gentle shoulder shrug with your hands in your pockets and then just having a seat. And I had enough of that kind of energy in my life already, so I did not need to see it right here, so I didn’t.
Until I did. I started to notice signs of life I hadn’t clocked before — hand-drawn hopscotch courts and scooters zipping around on any corner of concrete the kids could find. Groups playing soccer, brightly colored pennies on the lawn; that’s why they put turf there! And in the early months of lockdown, when we were all a little desperate for space and air and movement, I took my headphones down the street, found a shady patch of turf, and…danced. In that moment, I learned that this confounding turf is not only suitable for soccer balls and yoga mats. It also invites low tops on weary feet holding up restless legs that only want to stretch a bit. To arabesque and lunge and pirouette and forget for a brief moment that breath and movement and joy feel all but impossible.