By Arthur Z. Schwartz
Villagers (and Chelsea-folk) are close to having a new magnificent waterfront park later this year, at a place once populated by a garbage incinerator, garbage trucks and a huge salt pile. Built on solid ground (as opposed to a pier), Gansevoort Peninsula Park will be developed into a large green oasis, complete with a resilient “beach” on the southern side that will provide river access to kayakers and other small boaters, as well as a place for lounging and river views.
Construction is progressing on the park, a new 5.5-acre public recreational space on the Hudson River waterfront in the West Village. Designed by James Corner Field Operations, which was commissioned by the Hudson River Park Trust in January 2019, the upcoming green space is located next to Pier 53 directly across from the Whitney Museum of American Art, and will feature Manhattan’s first public beach!! (At least in recent history; I’m sure that the Manahatas, the Dutch, English settlers and pre-20th Century New Yorkers swam in the Hudson River).
Photographs taken along Hudson River Park and from the roof of Pier 57 (the “Super Pier” at 15th Street) show trees being planted for spring. Several tall metal poles have been mounted in place on the western end that will hold up the perimeter netting for the soccer field. Large deliveries of rocks and material continue to build up the land above sea level around the center of the park.
A low-rise reinforced concrete wall is built on the northern side of the property, and should likely serve as a retaining wall with infill behind and the cascade of rocks meeting the water line on the outer face. Giant blocks of stone dot the length of the park awaiting to be put in place.
On the southern side of the site the walkway has been poured, and the slope to the water for the beach has been created.
The FDNY Marine Company One building anchors the northern corner with its geometrically angled superstructure.
The soccer field will occupy most of the land and will be surrounded by numerous pathways, stepped seating, a sandy beach with a children’s playground with additional seating and umbrellas, kayak slips, a salt marsh, a dog run, viewing platforms, and lush landscaping throughout.
Along the southern edge of Gansevoort Peninsula Park is David Hammons’ Day’s End, a skeletal outline of a pier shed built over the former site of Pier 52. The minimalist open-air work serves as a reminder of New York’s waterfront past.
Did you know—Manhattan once had a well-used Thirteenth Avenue? It ran from Bloomfield Street on what is now the Gansevoort Peninsula north to 23rd Street. The area was later excavated to permit longer ships to dock without blocking the channel. Today, only a one-block stretch of Thirteenth Avenue remains on the Gansevoort Peninsula. This block has been incorporated into the design for the Gansevoort Peninsula Park.
Arthur Z. Schwartz was the Waterfront Chair for Community Board 2 for 14 years.