December 1, 2020

How the Creator of Domino Park’s Social Distancing Circles Spends His Sundays

In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Domino Park’s 30 or so white social distancing circles on artificial grass quickly became a go-to visual for describing the city mid-pandemic. They are the brainchild of Mike Lampariello, the park’s director.

“This was the simplest, most intuitive solution to spread people out,” said Mr. Lampariello, 33, who spent four hours painting the circles with two others in mid-May. He lives with his girlfriend, Dana Mathews, 34, an entertainment director at Condé Nast, in a two-bedroom apartment a couple blocks from the six-acre park.

UP EARLY FOR UPDATES My body clock wakes me up at 7 or 7:30, and I look at my phone. The park uses Slack to communicate so I see what updates have happened overnight. Because of additional cleaning protocol, we’ve extended the hours of the staff, who now work an extremely long day because we open at 6 a.m. and close at 1 a.m. Before corona, I’d go out and get coffee at Devoción. Now I pick a different local brand every week and make it at home.

RUNNING RESEARCH At 8:30 or 9 I go for a 45-minute run. I follow a number of running groups on Instagram and I’m trying to run 20 miles a week. I have two routes. North goes up through Greenpoint, which takes me through waterfront parks. I’m constantly evaluating how other parks are working and being used, so it’s a little research. If I head south I run by the Navy Yard, which has a great bike path.

DECOMPRESS By 10, Dana is up. For breakfast we eat cereal or eggs with salmon, or something more decadent like pancakes. My life can quickly become about a five-block radius, so we take a drive, which lets me decompress. We go to Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Greenwood Cemetery or Hunters Point South.

ImageA quick check-in at the office before he makes his rounds. 
Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

PARK HAPPENINGS Around 12:30, I go to the field office, lather on some sunscreen and meet with the supervisor to get an overview of any issues that have popped up. That could be anything from a clogged toilet to a puncture in the irrigation system or graffiti that popped up over night, which we remove within 12 hours. Recently, we’ve found shrines of Breonna Taylor in the park. We leave those untouched for an appropriate amount of time. For the last six weeks or so on Sunday afternoons, muralist Joe Matunis of the local human rights group El Puente has been dropping off additional portraits for us to install. The mural pays tribute to local Brooklyn essential workers of many different nationalities.

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

WALK-THROUGH I walk the park and see how our five or six staffers, whom we call ambassadors, are doing. We ask everyone when they enter the park to wear a mask. That’s been a challenge, especially when you’re in your family unit in the sun. My first rounds of hellos are to the regulars who live in the hood and the park serves as their front or back yard.

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

THE VISITORS Throughout the day, the park is constantly transitioning with people. There’s an increased gratitude and a relief from people who can get outside and spread out. From 6 to 10 a.m. we have folks running, exercising or walking their dogs. Families come at 10 and stay for a few hours. At 2 it gets heavier with people. The picnickers used to stay until 8. Now they leave at 10.

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

HOW’S IT GROWING? At 3, I’ll check in on our “Victory Garden,” which is a staff garden we recently started. There’s a movement to try and start them across the city. It’s a stress reliever. If there’s a ripe strawberry, I’ll pick that and eat it.

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

CLEANUPS, HANDOUTS At 3 or 4 our staff changes over and the evening supervisor comes in. I give him a rundown, tell him if we have any parties. There can be operational challenges with them. They take up a larger footprint. If there’s cake and balloons there’s additional trash, that might be time-consuming to clean up. Mom & Icepops is our local ice pop vendor. We created these little domino tiles which say, ‘Redeem for a free ice pop.’ We hand out 50 to 100 per day, usually to kids or the people having the parties. It’s a fun way to interact and understand the vibe of the park. There’s also a taco stand manager so I check in with him.

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

ISSUES Usually by 6 something will pop up that requires my attention — someone once jumped into the East River. Now it’s issues with perceived crowding. Someone will have called the cops who might stop by so it’s good for me to be the person that handles that. A specific group might be off their circle. Larger groups might gather. People might drink a bit more than they should because bars are selling alcohol.

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

HOME I’ll check in with the staff once more around 8, then head home. I’ve been standing outside in the sun for eight hours and it uses all my mental acuity. For dinner we have pasta from Misi, the local Italian pasta restaurant, which does a different to-go pasta each week. I’ve been reading “Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid and “Born A Crime” by Trevor Noah. Right now we’re watching “Money Heist” on Netflix. We’re asleep by 11.

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times