New Yorkers Claim Their Waterfront


Pier 1 at Photograph by Julienne Schaer

With this stifling heat wave New Yorkers are trying to brave,  it is hard to take refuge in the city filled with skyscrapers and traffic.   This summer, we are flocking to parks along the edge of the Island to relax amidst a sea of greenery, catching some breezes off the water while enjoying the amazing views of the skyline and different bridges.   This step marks an important part in our history, as prior to this, as Nathan Ward in an Op-Ed for the New York Times put it, we have shied away from “claiming our waterfront.”   In Ward’s article, he outlines the history of the waterfront, explaining that as the ports’ economy slowed down toward the end of the 1900s, the abandoned piers became “a ghost town between landlubbers and the water” where no one wanted to be, let alone live.   Within the past few years, we are beginning to discover the potential the waterfront has to offer.  And, areas that have been rundown and vacant for years are now getting green makeovers and contributing more and more feet of parkscape for New Yorkers to enjoy.

Whether you are closest to Governors Island, the West Side or perhaps Brooklyn, here’s the scoop on three fairly recent park developments we hope all can enjoy.

Pier 45 at Hudson River Park

Stretching from Battery Park in Downtown, through Tribeca and Chelsea to Midtown/Clinton, the Hudson River Park has packed so many activities into this green strip that it would be foolish not to take advantage of its offerings.  Free kayaking, night time movies for children and adults, walking tours, small classic ensembles, fishing, and art installations are offered constantly – not to mention the miles of perfect running conditions and large green lawns to play or soak up sun.

Governors Island Photograph by Chang W. Lee/The Times

Resting right in the New York Harbor about 800 yards from the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan, Governors Island seems like “a world unto itself”.  A few years ago, all residents were relocated off of Governors Island and the federal government sold most of the Island to the people of New York for just one dollar!  Open every Friday through Sunday, the 172-acre Island features miles of biking, art exhibits, performances, an artist-designed miniature golf, and perfect places for picnics.   A 2.2 mile promenade encircles the Island, bringing users close to the two 1812-era forts.  Plus, the Island still has about 80 acres on the southern side which the park is looking to develop in the future.

Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park Photograph by Philip Greenberg

The new Brooklyn Bridge Park, dubbed an “urban oasis”, includes a 1,300 ft promenade snaking along the East River with amazing views of the skyline.  Pier 1 and Pier 6 add over 12 acres of park and are designed to support a variety of activities, such as a 1.6 acre destination playground.  While different elements have been transformed into park space (take the “Main Street Lot” – a parking lot now changed to a playground and park area),  Brooklyn Bridge Park still has exciting plans to transform even more underused and inaccessible spaces into usable public space in the future.  “The Park will connect visitors to the waterfront and NY Harbor in extraordinary ways with floating pathways, fishing piers, canals, paddling waters and restored wetlands.  This is the most significant park development in Brooklyn since Prospect Park was built 135 years ago.”

Aerial Shot of Governors Island

So, if the heat is really getting to you, and these 95+ degree days seem unbearable, we hope you can find some relief by cooling off in these great parks.  Whether you’re looking to watch an evening movie, share a picnic, or enjoy a nice stroll, we know one, if not all, of these places will be perfect for you!



Cite: Cilento, Karen. "New Yorkers Claim Their Waterfront" 07 Jul 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 Apr 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=67662>

1 comment

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    I have visited New York many times over the years and more recently, I have enjoyed wandering down to the water’s edge in whatever part of the city that I am in. It’s good to see that the residents are embracing the waterfront more. It really is a magnificent resource.

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