How Hudson River Park Helped Revitalize Manhattan’s West Side | ET REALITY


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

In 1998, when Governor George E. Pataki signed the law authorizing the park’s creation, he promised it would have a beach. Now, on the 25th anniversary of the Hudson River Park Law – which turned a strip of dilapidated warehouses and rotting docks along the city’s mightiest river into a sprawling network of parks – West Side residents will finally be able to wiggle their toes in the sand.

The beach is part of a larger effort to complete the park and unite its disparate sections, which have been developed piecemeal over the years. The newest projects expected to open soon are Gansevoort Peninsula, a recreational area on Gansevoort Street that includes the beach as part of a $73 million redevelopment, and Pier 97, a $47 million project on 57th Street that will have a large park childish.

Hudson River Park, the largest park built in Manhattan since Central Park, attracts 17 million visits a year and has helped spur real estate development on the West Side. Developers have spent billions of dollars transforming neighborhoods along the park, a former industrial zone, attracting companies like IAC, a digital media company, and Google, and legions of residents to the shiny new towers that they face the river.

“It’s like they said, ‘Build the park and development will follow,'” said Robert Freudenberg, vice president of the nonprofit Regional Plan Association.

Hudson River Park arose to solve a problem: what to do with a dying port after the industry and commerce were gone.

Manhattan’s western shore, below 59th Street, was the center of New York’s maritime economy in the early 20th century. The ships brought goods from all over the world and took away products from the city’s factories. Immigrants and visitors passed through a passenger terminal at Pier 97.

But much of that activity disappeared in the 1970s, after the decline of manufacturing and changes in transportation methods. The abandoned docks and warehouses attracted bathers, artists and members of the LGBTQ community. But the collapse of a section of the West Side Elevated Highway, which ran parallel to the river, drew attention to the seedy coastal area, which was highlighted in the opening scenes of the 1976 movie “Taxi Driver.”

In the 1980s and 1990s a plan emerged to renovate many of the piers as park spaces, allow commercial activities on others, and build an esplanade and bike path linking them all. The city and state would fund capital improvements, and the commercial docks would provide revenue for operations and maintenance of the 550-acre park, which stretches from Chambers Street in TriBeCa to West 59th Street in Hell’s Kitchen.

The first green space, Pier 45 on Christopher Street in the West Village, opened in 2003. Other piers took longer to transform. City agencies had established operations in some and were slow to relent, and in others there were structural problems: The deteriorating wooden pilings beneath them had to be replaced with concrete.

Financing problems also slowed progress: When the economy worsened, as it did with the 2008 financial crisis, cash dried up.

But with the clearing of abandoned buildings on the waterfront and the reconstruction of the West Side Highway at ground level (and the river finally in sight), inland properties became more desirable.

TO pair of condo towers Facing the water on Perry Street in the West Village, designed by Richard Meier and gleaming among brick stairs and cinderblock warehouses, it was one of the first signs that change was afoot.

“That really stood out,” said Connie Fishman, executive director of a fundraising partner to the Hudson River Park Trust, the public corporation that develops and manages the park.

In 2008, the Documented Regional Plan Association how the West Village portion of the park was spurring property sales, corroborating other studies on how parks add value to neighborhoods. Beyond their intrinsic recreational and environmental benefits, parks also play an economic role by increasing the value of adjacent real estate.

For 2016Neighborhoods along the park led Manhattan’s development: their growth in built-up square footage between 2000 and 2014 accounted for more than a quarter of all new development in the borough.

Zoning changes on the West Side that allowed for residences and taller buildings also spurred development, as did the High Line, the former landscaped railroad line, which attracted crowds of strolling tourists and spawned luxury buildings alongside it.

A parade of impressive buildings by renowned architects emerged in front of Hudson River Park. Entertainment mogul Barry Diller hired Frank Gehry to design the IAC headquarters with a facade of White glass tilted to evoke the sails of a ship.. “I wanted to be near the water,” Diller said.

TO Jean Nouvel condo with irregularly sized windows sloping in all directions it rose directly north of IAC. And the Durst Organization hired Bjarke Ingels to design an apartment building. pyramid shaped to maximize river views.

The Whitney Museum of American Art, an Upper East Side staple, moved into a battleship-colored building designed by Renzo Piano on a site facing the Gansevoort Peninsula. The museum worked with the park trust to locate it next to the peninsula. a monumental sculpture by David Hammons which traces the outline of the dock shed that once stood on the site.

“When we started looking at the site around 2007, it still looked like an industrial neighborhood,” said Adam D. Weinberg, director of the Whitney. “The nightclubs remained and a handful of refrigerators remained.”

Now, two blocks away it is small island, a mini park that rests on tulip-shaped concrete pots planted on the site of another old pier. 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,” Weinberg said. “Now it looks like a crossroads.”

As new structures were built, old ones were renovated. Pier 57, a 1950s engineering marvel on West 15th Street that is on the National Register of Historic Places, has a new food hall and Google offices. Since the dining hall opened in April, pedestrian crossings into the park have more than doubled, according to MRI Springboard data collected for the Meatpacking District Management Associationthe neighborhood business improvement district.

The park and inland real estate became further intertwined when the sale of unused development rights to the commercial docks was allowed. Air rights from Pier 40 on West Houston Street allowed floors to be added on top of a 1934 cargo terminal building that has been converted into more Google offices.

When Pier 97 and Gansevoort Peninsula open, the public portions of the park will be 95 percent complete, said Noreen Doyle, president and CEO of the park trust. The latest projects “really catapult us forward,” she added.

For Pier 97, !melk, a design firm, used a lightweight construction material called geofoam to vary the topography of the nearly two-acre pier, creating a lawn that rises to an angular shade structure on its north side. The landscape architects also laid out winding paths, filled pots with peppermint and other saltwater-tolerant species, and designed a polished granite slide wide enough for an entire family.

“The community wanted something interesting,” said Jerry van Eyck, founder and director of the company.

Field operationsthe landscape architecture firm that reinvented the 5 ½-acre Gansevoort Peninsula also added a sizable soccer field, plus a dog park, picnic tables and spacious lounge chairs.

“We were trying to include a variety of experiences,” said Lisa Switkin, partner at Field Operations.

Beyond a pine forest crossed by a boardwalk, the beach occupies much of the southern side of the peninsula. Filled with 35 truckloads of beige sand from a quarry near Cape May, New Jersey, it is dotted with blue umbrellas, Adirondack chairs and river birch trees. The logs are scattered as if a powerful wave had washed huge pieces of driftwood ashore.

Ms. Switkin took off her shoes on a recent tour. “She feels great,” she said, spinning in the sand.

Points of interest in the park.

1) Pier 97: The pier will have a large playground, a slide for all ages and a sloping grass area.

2) Chelsea Piers: The park’s first income-generating commercial area. It was inaugurated in 1995.

3) Pier 57: A historic landmark that was recently renovated. It now houses Google’s offices and a dining room.

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

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

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

Buildings along West Side Highway

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

8) 173 and 176 Perry Streets: Twin condominium towers designed by Richard Meier that opened in 2002.

9) Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street: The new headquarters of the museum, 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: The structure was built between 1980 and 1986 and was named in honor of the US senator from New York.

12) VIA 57 Apartamentos Oeste, 625 Calle 57 Oeste: Shaped like a pyramid, this residential building was designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, a Danish firm.

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