Watch out, High Line, there’s a new park in town. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on hand yesterday to unveil a 5.5-acre waterfront park and several roadways at the site of the Hunter’s Point South development in Queens. We dispatched writer Nancy Lazarus to assess the city’s newest green space.


The multi-use green oval at Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, which opened to the public yesterday. (All photos: Albert Vecerka/Esto)

Many New Yorkers know Long Island City from the Silvercup or Pepsi signs visible across the East River. Art enthusiasts associate LIC with galleries, studios, and MoMA’s PS1. With the opening of Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, locals now have recreational reasons to visit. So hop on the subway or East River Ferry and bring your cameras, bicycles, bathing suits, and dogs to NYC’s newest waterfront oasis.

Hunter’s Point South development, formerly known as “Queens West,” would have hosted an Olympic village if New York had won its 2012 bid. New York City Economic Development Corporation is overseeing the project, and Thomas Balsley Associates and Weiss/Manfredi collaborated on Phase 1, the design of the park and open space, with ARUP acting as prime consultant and infrastructure designers. Affordable housing and a school are also being built.

During a recent press tour, Marion Weiss, Michael Manfredi, and Thomas Balsley described how they converted the former marshland and industrial area for leisure use. While the tour was on a bright sunny day, the area was designed to be sustainable and to withstand storms. According to Weiss, the park flooded briefly during storm Sandy, but the water quickly receded, thanks to their water runoff and conservation system. There’s more official interest now in addressing potential floods, Manfredi added.


The pavilion and ferry landing at Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park

Shade and shelter were also part of the design program, and a pavilion serving as the arrival point is located at the water’s edge. A plate structure overhead, with 64 white, pleated photovoltaic panels, acts as a sun shield and a generator of solar power. Weiss said now they produce enough to power half the park area. The elevated pier and nearby plaza for events are made of weather-resistant kebonized pine.

Greenery abounds, especially on the oval-shaped playing field. To accommodate visitors’ recreation and relaxation needs, the design team used AstroTurf for the inner active lawn area and natural grass on the outer lawn, Balsley explained. Nearby is a garden where freight rails are laid out alongside natural grasses and flowers, forming a serene spot for visitors to wander.

For those looking to socialize, one option is the urban beach along the promenade, intended for taking in the panoramic views of Manhattan while sunbathing. Or as Balsley pointed out, parkgoers can relax nearby while their canines enjoy two dog runs. One run one is for small dogs, the other is for large dogs, and each has separate gates, in case the pets are less socially inclined.

Adults and children have their own exercise choices. At a playground with brightly colored equipment from Landscape Structures, kids can tunnel, swing, or climb. Multiple bike lanes and running paths also wind along the park’s periphery. As Manfredi observed, this represents another change from earlier urban planning, since adjacent Gantry Plaza State Park designed in the 1990s didn’t include bike lanes.

A landmark in the state park still looms large over the landscape. It’s a black gantry tower that was used to lift the transfer bridge on the river. It displays a red “Long Island” sign, and offers a reminder of the area’s industrial maritime heritage. While the preserved structure and sign evoke the former era of rails and river barges, these recent design updates clearly signal the area’s green urban renewal.

Nancy Lazarus’s last contribution to UnBeige was a survey of sleeping bags. Learn about her here.