How Hudson River Park Helped Revitalize Manhattan’s West Side

How Hudson River Park Helped Revitalize Manhattan's West Side

Twelve hundred tons of sand arrived at Hudson River Park, a green space on the western edge of Manhattan, last month, and it took just a quarter of a century to get there.

In 1998, when Governor George E. Pataki signed legislation authorizing the creation of the park, he vowed that it would feature a beach. Now, on the 25th anniversary of Hudson River Park Act — which transformed a strip of dilapidated warehouses and rotting piers along the city’s mightiest river into a vast park network — West Siders will finally get a chance to curl their toes in the sand.

The beach is part of a larger effort to complete the park and link its different parts together, which has been developed in a piecemeal manner over the years. The latest projects to open soon are Gansevoort Peninsula, a recreational area off Gansevoort Street that will include a beach as part of a $73 million overhaul, and Pier 97, a $47 million project off 57th Street that will feature a large playground .

The largest park built in Manhattan after Central Park, Hudson River Park attracts 17 million visitors per year and has helped spur real estate development on the West Side. Developers have spent billions of dollars transforming the neighborhood around the park, a former industrial area, attracting companies like IAC, a digital media firm and Google, and large numbers of residents to shiny new towers overlooking the river. .

“It’s like they said: ‘Build the park and development will take care of itself,'” said Robert Frydenberg, vice president of the Regional Planning Association, a nonprofit.

Hudson River Park solved a problem: what to do with a dying waterfront after industry and commerce left.

Manhattan’s West Bank below 59th Street was the center of New York’s thriving maritime economy in the late 20th century. Ships brought goods from around the world and products from the city’s factories. Immigrants and visitors came through a passenger terminal at Pier 97.

But much of that activity had ended by the 1970s, following the decline of manufacturing and changes in transportation methods. Abandoned wharves and warehouses attracted sunbathers, artists, etc. members of the lgbtq community, But the collapse of a section of the elevated West Side Highway, which ran parallel to the river, drew attention to the barrenness of the waterfront area, highlighted in the opening scenes of the 1976 film “Taxi Driver.”

In the 1980s and 1990s plans emerged to refurbish many of the piers as park spaces, allow commercial enterprise on others, and build an esplanade and bike path linking them all together. The city and state will finance capital improvements, and commercial ferries will provide revenue to operate and maintain the 550-acre park, which stretches from Chambers Street in Tribeca to West 59th Street in Hell’s Kitchen.

First Green area, Pier 45 on Christopher Street in the West Village, opened in 2003. Other piers took longer to replace. City agencies had begun action on some and were moving slowly, and others had structural problems – deteriorating wooden piles beneath them had to be replaced with concrete.

Funding issues also slowed progress: when the economy took a turn for the worse, as happened with the 2008 financial crisis, cash ran out.

But as abandoned buildings on the coast were cleared and the West Side Highway was rebuilt at ground level – and the river finally became visible – properties inland became more desirable.

A pair of condominium towers Facing the water on Perry Street in the West Village – designed by Richard Meier and gleaming between brick walk-ups and cinder-block warehouses – was one of the first signs that change was coming.

“It really stood out,” said Connie Fishman, executive director of the . funding partner Hudson River Park Trust, the public corporation that develops and operates the park.

in 2008, Documented Regional Planning Association How the West Village portion of the park was boosting property sales confirms other studies of how parks add value to neighborhoods. In addition to their intrinsic recreational and environmental benefits, parks also play an economic role by increasing the value of adjacent real estate.

till 2016The neighborhoods surrounding the park led Manhattan in development – ​​their increase in built square footage from 2000 to 2014 represented more than a quarter of all new development in the borough.

Zoning changes allowing residences and tall buildings on the West Side also spurred development, as did the High Line, a landscaped former rail line that attracts large numbers of walking tourists and, along with it— Also gives rise to luxury buildings.

A parade of attractive buildings from top architects fronted Hudson River Park. Entertainment mogul Barry Diller hired Frank Gehry to design the headquarters with the IAC facade White glass tilted to evoke the sail of a ship, “I wanted to live near the water,” Mr. Diller said.

A Condominium by Jean Nouvel Irregularly shaped windows with slanted windows on each side rise directly to the north side of the IAC. And the Durst Organization hired Bjarke Ingels to build an apartment building pyramid shaped To maximize river views.

The Whitney Museum of American Art, a staple of the Upper East Side, moved into a battleship-colored building designed by Renzo Piano on a site overlooking the Gansevoort Peninsula. The museum worked with the park’s trust to create the space along the peninsula. A monumental sculpture by David Hammons Which traces the outline of the wharf shed that once stood on this site.

Whitney director Adam D. Weinberg said, “When we started looking at the site around 2007, it still felt like an industrial neighborhood.” “There were nightclubs, there were a handful of meatpackers left.”

Now, two blocks away small island, a small park resting on tulip-shaped concrete pots planted on the site of another old pier. it was paid by a foundation Started by Mr. Diller and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

“There’s Hudson River Park, then us, then the High Line,” Mr. Weinberg said. “It feels like an intersection now.”

As new structures developed, older structures were renovated. Pier 57, a 1950s engineering marvel on West 15th Street that is on the National Register of Historic Places, houses a new food hall and Google offices. Since the food hall opened in April, foot traffic at the park has more than doubled, according to MRI Springboard data. Meatpacking District Management AssociationNeighborhood Business Improvement District.

Parks and inland real estate became further interconnected when commercial piers sold off unused development rights was allowed, Air rights from Pier 40 at West Houston Street allowed the addition of higher floors. A 1934 freight terminal building that has been converted into more Google offices,

When Pier 97 and the Gansevoort Peninsula open, the park’s public portions will be 95 percent complete, said Noreen Doyle, president and chief executive of the park’s trust. “The latest projects really push us forward,” he said.

For Pier 97, !melkA design firm used a lightweight construction material called geofoam to alter the topography of the nearly two-acre pier, creating a lawn that extended up to an angular shade structure on its north side. Landscape architects also created winding pathways, filled planters with catmint and other saltwater-tolerant species, and designed polished-granite slides wide enough for the entire family.

“The community wanted something nice,” said Jerry Van Eyck, the firm’s founder and principal.

field operationThe landscape architecture firm that re-imagined the 5 ½-acre Gansevoort Peninsula also added a large soccer field in addition to a dog run, picnic tables and giant chaise lounges.

“We were trying to cover a variety of experiences,” said Lisa Switkin, partner of field operations.

Beyond the pine grove along the boardwalk, the beach occupies most of the southern part of the peninsula. Filled with 35 truckloads of brown sand from a quarry near Cape May, NJ, it’s furnished with blue umbrellas, Adirondack-style chairs, and river birches. Wood is scattered here and there as if a powerful wave has swept large pieces of wood onto the shore.

Ms. Switkin took off her shoes on a recent visit. “It feels great,” she said, rolling around in the sand.

Points of interest in the park

1) Pier 97: The ghat will have a large playground, a slide for all ages and a sloping lawn.

2) Chelsea Pierce:The first revenue generating commercial area in the park. It opened in 1995.

3) Pier 57: A historical landmark that was recently renovated. It now houses Google offices and a food hall.

4) small island: a mini park supported by tulip-shaped concrete pots that opened in 2021 with funding from the foundation started by Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg.

5) Gansevoort Peninsula: A new area which will have a public sandy beach.

6) Pier 45: Opened in 2003, it was the first pier in the park to be renovated as a green space.

Buildings along the West Side Highway

7) St. John’s Terminal, 550 Washington Street: Bought by Google in 2021, it is part of the tech giant’s campus.

8) 173 & 176 Perry Street: Twin condo towers designed by Richard Meier that opened in 2002.

9) Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street: The museum’s new home, designed by Renzo Piano.

10) IAC Building, 555 West 18th Street: The headquarters of IAC, a digital media company, designed by Frank Gehry.

11) Jacob K. Javits Convention Center: This structure was constructed from 1980 to 1986 and was named in honor of the U.S. senator from New York.

12) VIA 57 West Apartments, 625 West 57th Street: This pyramid-shaped residential building was designed by Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group.

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