New Kids on the Block: Cocoon

The first thing you’ll notice about Cocoon is the space. Gobs of it. There is not a single remnant from the old Best Market, with its cramped aisles and hidden deli section. Now the area from produce to fish seems enormous — and that’s just the first floor. And I would guess that’s precisely what parents are looking for these days.

The members-only family social club (the owners don’t like to call it an urban country club, though as one of my friends pointed out, it certainly is if you’re a toddler!) has renovated 18,000 square feet on Greenwich and Duane on the ground floor of IPN, creating classrooms, play spaces and nurseries to service the needs of babies and kids — and their parents — up to age 8. To see for yourself, peek in the windows to catch the climbing net on the first floor, plus small areas for snacks, a bigger conference or meeting area with tables, and yards of open play space — mostly Astroturf littered with fun stuff for open play, like tires and wood planks and hanging bars.

Downstairs there’s a more elaborate play structure designed for parkour (the urban sport of jumping over and around street furniture) plus several classrooms set up for art and music.

The business is owned by two couples — Battery Park City residents Karl Chong and Megan Lucas-Chong, and LES residents Lenny Lo and Tony Yu  — and you might have thought this was the worst possible timing to open such a place. (They first started planning in 2019 and looked at several spaces downtown before settling on IPN.) But they have chosen to look at these challenges as glass-half-full, and took it as an opportunity to both design something that works for our new normal and provide a respite for parents and kids stuck at home with fewer play options.

“In March we reassessed and though about our values as a company and how we wanted to serve the community,” said Karl, who was the founder and CEO of Groupon Singapore. “Building a space like Cocoon suddenly seemed much more necessary.” They redirected their architect to purpose-build the space for the pandemic — knocking down walls, doubling the size of the classrooms, eliminating doors to reduce touch points, adding more sinks — creating a place where people can space themselves out.

There are kids classes in person and online throughout the day, plus occasional “happenings” — performances or other events in the bigger space. And the plan is to eventually offer a roster of education events for parents, from pre- and post-natal programs (some of which they offer on a sliding scale for non-members) to lectures and seminars.

But the main perk is large, unprogrammed areas for open-ended play in a comfortable environment. (The design aesthetic is simple and spare, with industrial materials and quirky touches, like living moss installations on the columns and room dividers made from rope.) “The entire space is supposed to feel like an extension of your home,” said Jenny.

The two couples first met several years ago at Mandarin Seeds, where they had their kids enrolled in a class. At the time, Jenny was working in branding and design and Tony as a real estate broker and construction manager; Megan was formerly an art educator for museums. (Tony is the only one of the four who kept his day job; the rest of them are running the business full time.)

Fresh off their stint in Singapore, Megan and Karl would talk about the supports for parents built into the culture there — when a baby was born, family would descend from all over to help the young couple. “When we had kids here, we felt pretty isolated,” said Megan, whose family is in Ohio (Karl is Australian). “We thought there was a real gap here, and we wanted to create a space to support people at that time.”

Part of their idea is to evaluate the milestones in parenting — post-partum challenges, childcare and schooling, developmental changes — and build programs that bridge those gaps. That’s the education part. The social part of the club is simply to make friends, for both kids and adults. “This is how you create your squad,” said Jenny.

This is not the first business in the neighborhood that grew out of parents making friends with other parents as their kids played underfoot, and it seems to be a solid formula — even in a pandemic. And so far, they say, everything has rolled out as well as they’d hoped.

“A lot of the business’ values are shared by us as friends and as families,” said Karl. “If we lean back on that, most decisions are made quite easily.”



  1. interesting conceptual usage.

    Neighborhood still could use a real Supermarket.

  2. Enough already. Open one yourself.
    Welcome to the neighborhood Cocoon! Looks like so much fun. It is nice to walk by and see all the activity.