October 28, 2021

cruciforme

travel, Always a step ahead

At the End of the New Pier 26, a Surprise

Expanding a park usually means modifying an existing landscape. The designers of Pier 26 faced a far more daunting challenge: creating an entirely new one in the swift current of the Hudson River.

The results can be seen on Wednesday afternoon, when the revamped pier opens at the end of North Moore Street in Manhattan. The latest addition to Hudson River Park, this 2.5-acre expanse is the city’s only public pier dedicated to river ecology. Incorporating a lawn, a sports court and decks elevated more than 12 feet above the water, it exhibits indigenous plants and trees that hark back to when only Native Americans occupied what is now New York. But the pier’s most distinctive feature is a feat of 21st-century artifice: Because the park’s sea wall prevented developing a rocky intertidal wetland — a science-education bonanza — at the shoreline, the trust decided to engineer one on the river itself.

“We all know that you can build marshland and tidal pools near a bulkhead,” said Madelyn Wils, president and chief executive of the Hudson River Park Trust, the nonprofit public corporation that operates and continues to develop the park. “But how would they actually do 800 feet out on the water?”

That meant creating a series of environments and elevations. As visitors stroll westward, they encounter a sequence of small ecological habitats — woodland forest, coastal grassland, maritime scrub, the wetland and, finally, the river. Ascending walkways on the north and south sides eventually converge in an inverted V around the marshland; at that apex, a 1,353-square-foot platform angles high over the Hudson.

The pier’s perimeter, which offers seating that includes stadium-style bleachers and deck chairs, also has an unexpected north wall with window openings, bar stools and a desk-level shelf for coffee cups or laptops. By providing shade and blocking wind, the wall “is going to extend the seasonal use of this park,” Ms. Sanders said. OLIN also added modern-day gazebos: two sheds, one wood and the other perforated steel, each equipped with pairs of six-foot-wide swings. These designs are “more like a folly, having a bit of fun,” Ms. Sanders said.

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