If there’s a place where the best of the “old New York”—read: rough around the edges—meets the best of the “new New York” better than at Prospect Park Lake, I don’t know it. Nestled into the far southern bootheel of the park (no shame if you’ve never been), the lake was long a place that was very rough around the edges. Literally so, with a shoreline that was murky at best and a shifting tide of sludgy urban mud at worst. It was also a crossroads for an incredibly diverse migratory bird population in the spring, as well as the kinds of “old New York” urban activities—public pot smoking, sex in the woods—people tend to mythologize but not necessarily participate in.
With the opening last December of the Lakeside recreation center on the lake’s east side, the area got a not unwelcome dose of Bloombergian New York: a refurbished shoreline with new walkways and landscaping, and, most famously, a new skating rink, with two ovals. In the winter, both areas are devoted to ice skating; in the summer, the covered rink is converted for rollerskating, while the outdoor rink becomes an interactive water fountain for folks of all ages (though mostly targeted at children)
Of course you can Bloomberg one part of Brooklyn, but you can’t Bloomberg the whole thing, and, thankfully, Prospect Park Lake still retains plenty of its old world charm: sidewalks that flood and create private areas for bird-watching or oral sex; picnic grounds that can accommodate impromptu (i.e. totally illegal) campfires, and the best weed-smoking spots with water views in the city this side of Sunset Park. So, as the Chamber of Commerce would put it: Come to Prospect Park Lake! Get your kid wet! Get your dick wet! Just...don’t do them at the same time. — Jack Erwin