On February 1st, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow signaling that we need to cozy up in this seemingly eternal snow globe we currently inhabit, for another six weeks. Even though Spring has not yet sprung, our minds are definitely yearning for warmer weather. Never have we ever needed our parks more than we do during this pandemic.
In exciting news, new parks in New York City are springing up in the air, on water, and a few on land. NYC’s biggest park enthusiast, who also happens to be our dedicated NYC Parks Commissioner, Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, told us, "What makes NYC unique is its variety of parks and public spaces. From pocket parks to streetside plazas, and even a greenway atop a defunct rail line—every inch of available space in New York is utilized. Continuing to expand public spaces into the fabric of New York will offer new experiences to get outdoors, get healthy, and enjoy the beauty of the city."
As we dream of lying in the grass, breathing fresh air, and feeling the sun on our faces, here is a roundup of the NYC parks we’re most looking forward to!
The Little Island ↑
Possibly NYC’s most innovative park and one we’re incredibly excited for, the Little Island will open this Spring at Pier 54. Backed by the media mogul Barry Diller, and husband of the very fashionable Diane von Furstenberg, the stunning new public park will float above the Hudson River along the West Side Drive. Designed by UK-based Heatherwick Studio and the New York-based landscape architecture firm MNLA, led by Signe Nielsen, the Little Island sits atop 280 undulating piles. The new park will include green spaces and performance spaces as well as areas to contemplate nature and other spaces to soak in the spectacular views. Expectations are high for this park sitting high atop its perch, as we have every expectation that the Little Island will be the DVF of parks.
Extending the High Line ↑
In his 2021 State of the State address, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed an extension of the High Line to the newly opened Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station. In the announcement, Governor Cuomo said, “Moynihan Train Hall is the first piece of the puzzle that we’ve laid out for transforming Penn Station into the Empire Station Complex—and extending the High Line to meet this transportation hub will boost interconnectivity across the West Side, while fundamentally improving New Yorkers’ commutes. In 2020, we reintroduced light into Penn Station, and this new project will link Moynihan Train Hall to one of New York’s most prized public spaces.” Eventually, the High Line will extend all the way to the Hudson River Park. Speaking of Hudson River Park…
Gansevoort Peninsula ↑
The Hudson River Park Trust will start construction on the Gansevoort Peninsula beach this spring. Located in the Hudson River, at Little West 12th Street, the 5.5-acre park will be the largest single green space in the four-mile-long Hudson River Park. Gansevoort Peninsula will include a beach, a sports field, a salt marsh, and a dog run.
The Whitney Museum of Art and the Hudson River Park Trust announced the park will include a David Hammons original public art project. Hammons imagines the monument (sort of a skeletal ghost of a pier shed that once stood in that location) as, “somewhat luminous invisible yet very present installation of steel and aluminum that allows us to look through it to the sky and across the river and also remember the pier.”
The only part of the beach that isn’t totally awesome is that swimming will not be permitted as sewage still flows from the city into the river. So kayaking only!
East Harlem Esplanade and Pier 107 ↑
In January, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced the allocation of $284 million to NYC Parks for East Harlem Esplanade and Pier 107. Pier 107, originally built in 1931 on a former dump site, became an important industrial access point that eventually fell into disrepair. In 2018, the pier was deemed structurally unsafe and became off-limits.
The always ebullient NYC Park Commissioner Mitchell Silver told AMNY, “we’re working on the project schedule which includes determining when design will begin, and then later procurement, and construction. When completed New Yorkers can find the schedule on our capital tracker.”
Waterline Square Park ↑
Waterline Square Park is a new park that is nestled amid the massive, five-acre, three-tower luxury residential development designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, Richard Meier & Partners Architects, and Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates. As if the city-within-a-city development doesn’t have enough amenities (including their private 100,000 square feet of common amenities that houses a spacious screening room, basketball courts, indoor skateparks, and so much more), the recently opened public park is filled with lush plantings, walking paths, a playground, and stunning river views. Designed by landscape architecture firm Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, this new park is nestled in between West 59th and 61st streets.
Emily Roebling Plaza at Brooklyn Bridge Park ↑
Brooklyn Bridge Park is a series of connected parks along the East River totaling a massive 85-acres. With a breathtaking view of Manhattan, the first part of the park, Pier 1, opened in 2010. In December 2020, the park announced they broke ground on the space (which always reminds me of Mad Max) underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.
The new section of the park “will be named in honor of Emily Roebling, the engineer known for her work ensuring the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge.” This flexible space with hardscaping surrounded by trees and benches, will add two acres to the existing park and connect the DUMBO section of Brooklyn Bridge Park with the southern piers.
In the announcement, Mayor Bill de Blasio commented, “Park space is more important than ever as New Yorkers continue to practice social distancing and spend more time outdoors.”
Marsha P. Johnson State Park ↑
There is a lot of activity in this seven-acre waterfront, north Brooklyn Park. Immediately after announcing the closure of the park in early January, local residents protested and demanded it be reopened as an essential resource in this pandemic world. Formerly known as the East River State Park and renamed after the LGBTQ civil rights hero, the Marsha P. Johnson State Park quickly reopened.
Yesterday, Curbed reported that beyond all of the closure/opening drama, there’s another major point of contention: “As part of the park’s redesign, roughly an acre of concrete slab will be covered with a thermoplastic mural printed with rainbow stripes and planted with eight-foot-tall sculptural flowers as a tribute to Johnson, who often wore flowers in her hair.” According to the article, beyond the nonpermiable plastic being the opposite of an environmental option, they would much prefer green spaces or flower gardens planted as a tribute to the woman whose last act was buying flowers which made her so happy.
According to the park’s Instagram account: “As promised, we are embarking on a number of major park improvement projects this winter, including building a new park house with a classroom and public restrooms, enhancing the park’s infrastructure, and creating an outdoor gallery of public art celebrating Marsha P. Johnson's life and the movement she represents. We have broken ground for the park house! All of the park improvements will be completed by summer 2021.”
The community does not agree the park speaks for the strong activist it is now named after. Since the park’s evolution has been quite dramatic, we are sure this isn’t the end of the story. Stay tuned!
Update March 10, 2021: The Marsha P. Johnson State Park project been abandoned in response to criticism from Johnson’s family and other activists over a lack of public engagement. The state’s Parks Department will now seek public input on the design.