New York City Journal: A park along the Hudson will create Manhattan’s first public beach.

Rendering of beach area at Gansevoort Peninsula, proposed for Hudson River Park. (image James Corner Field Operations, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

by Ron Bernthal

New York City’s Hudson River Park Trust has begun construction on Gansevoort Peninsula, a riverfront park designed by the noted landscape firm James Corner Field Operations that will be home to  Manhattan’s first public beach.

Construction began in May, 2021, and the 5.5-acre park, which will also include lawns and sports facilities, is expected to complete by spring 2023. The $70 million project is funded primarily by the City of New
York. “We are thrilled that the Trust is continuing to build on the success of the recently opened and very popular Pier 26 with the redevelopment of Gansevoort Peninsula,” said Deputy Mayor Vicki Been. “The
creative and unique design will add to New York City’s diverse and ever-growing selection of world class parks and community spaces. The City is proud to invest in expanding open spaces for New Yorkers and
moving the Hudson River Park one step closer to completion. Thanks to CEO Madelyn Wils and the talented team at the Trust for the vision and drive it took to get to this milestone!”

Aerial view of Gansevoort Peninsula (image James Corner Field Operations, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

“Gansevoort Peninsula will be a spectacular public space for all New Yorkers, whether they’re enjoying Manhattan’s first public beach, playing on the ballfields or looking out in the salt marsh,” said Madelyn
Wils, President & CEO of the Hudson River Park Trust. “As Hudson River Park moves closer to completion, we are excited to be in position to start construction on one of our signature projects. Thank you to our funding partner, the City of New York, for its support of what will be the
largest single greenspace in Hudson River Park.”

Located in Hudson River Park between Gansevoort Street and Little West 12th Street, Gansevoort Peninsula will be part of Hudson River Park, the nation’s longest riverside park, running for four miles from Chambers Street to 59th St, connecting riverside locations at Green Piers in Tribeca, in the West Village, Meatpacking District, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. 

The Gansevoort Peninsula will include a sandy beach area with kayak access on the south side; a lawn and seating area north of the beach; a large sports field; a salt marsh with habitat enhancements on the north side, a dog run and on its western side, picnic tables and lounge chairs.

The ballpark at Gansevoort Peninsula (image James Corner Field Operations, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

The Whitney Museum of American Art is also building “Day’s End” a monumental sculpture by David Hammons on the southern edge of the Gansevoort Peninsula in partnership with the Hudson River Park Trust. This will be one of the country’s largest public art projects upon completion later this year.  

Pier 26 Tide Deck (image Olin Studio, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

Gansevoort Peninsula is just one of a slew of signature projects either recently opened or underway along the four-mile park. Overall, the Trust is spearheading more than $1 billion in public-private partnerships in ongoing construction toward completion of the Park.

In September, 2020, the Trust opened Pier 26 at the foot of North Moore Street in lower Manhattan, the first new public pier to open in the Park in a decade. The park features a first-of-its-kind tide deck, a sunning lawn, a sports court for children’s play, and multiple lounge areas with sprawling views of the city skyline and Hudson River. The 2.5-acre expanse is the city’s only public pier dedicated to river ecology.

Construction has completed on Little Island, a planned public park and performance space in the Hudson River where the old Pier 54 once stood. Little Island opened to the public in spring, 2021. Planned in partnership with the Hudson River Park Trust, the project was made possible through funding from the Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation along with the City of New York.

Aerial view of Little Island, in New York City’s Hudon River, which opened to the public in spring, 2021. (image Heatherwick Studio, courtesy The Hudson River Park Trust)

Components of the pier, nestled among more than 350 species of flowers, trees and shrubs, include a 687-seat amphitheater and an intimate stage and lawn space, along with dazzling views of other portions of Hudson River Park, New York City and the Hudson River. 

Little Island was designed by Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studio, with landscape design by Signe Nielsen of MNLA. The landscape provides a visually surprising and inspiring experience as visitors walk across the park. The plantings are varied to provide an environment that changes with the seasons, with flowing trees and shrubs, fall foliage and evergreens. More than 66,000 bulbs and 114 trees have been planted, some of which will grow to 60 feet tall. Every day through the end of September, timed entry reservations will be offered every half-hour starting at 12:00 Noon through the remainder of the day. Once you enter the park, there is no time limit to your stay. There is no cost to visit Little Island.

Pier 57 (image !melk landscape architecture & urban design, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

Work is ongoing at Pier 57, a mixed-use development by RXR Realty/Youngwoo and anchored by Google, which will include more than three acres of public open space, including a rooftop park and
perimeter esplanade and substantial indoor public space anchored by exhibition and classroom space for Hudson River Park’s River Project, expected to open in summer 2021 as a popular place for music, dining and relaxing, both indoors and outdoors.

Pier 57 (image !melk landscape architecture & urban design, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

The pier, originally designed by American architect and civil engineer Emil Praeger in the early 1950’s, was the largest dock ever built by the City of New York. Originally constructed in 1952, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, in large part because of the innovative engineering techniques that keep it afloat. Just below the water, three large concrete caissons support the main structure in lieu of traditional piles. Furthermore, these underwater containers serve as unique basement spaces, unlike any other pier.

In 2011, Handel Architects was hired to lead the renovation and restoration of the pier into a new mixed-use destination. Google is leasing 320,000 square-feet of office space, and City Winery is opening two performance venues, including a seated 350-seat concert hall and a smaller 150-capacity loft space. Also included will be a 100-seat capacity restaurant and tasting room and wine production facility. Retail will anchor the ground floor, and, working with !Melk Landscape Architecture, the rooftop is being transformed into an 80,000 sq.ft. public park with a screening venue for the Tribeca Film Festival, panoramic views of Manhattan and New York Harbor, as well as a rooftop pavilion restaurant.

Until 2004, Pier 57 was used for New York City bus parking, but now it is undergoing its final restoration and open all venues in 2021.

Pier 57 (image !melk landscape architecture & urban design, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

Pier 97 (image !melk landscape architecture & urban design, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

At the same time, an exciting expansion of the Clinton Cove Park area is now underway. In November 2018, the Trust hired !melk to undertake the design of Pier 97 as the park’s northernmost public pier. Pier 97 will include a lawn, playground, sunset plaza, and youth soccer fields, along with an esplanade connection to Riverside Park South; and a reconfiguration of Chelsea Waterside Park, which will include a rebuilt ball field, picnic areas and an enlarged ball field, joining the new and popular playground.

Pier 97 (image !melk landscape architecture & urban design, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

Pier 97 was built between 1921 and 1934, and then served for decades as the hub for the Swedish America Line. Movie buffs might recognize the façade of the old Pier 97 terminal building from the opening sequence of Taxi Driver.

The project will provide flexible gathering areas, surrounded by flowers and plants, for organized or impromptu events. The pier is also being planned to host a historic vessel on its south side. At the pier entrance, a new building will contain a small concession and public restrooms.