After an especially hot New York summer, the October opening of Gansevoort Peninsula made waves with an unprecedented offering: Manhattan’s first public beach. Designed by local landscape architecture and urban design firm Field Operations, the newly minted 2.2-hectare green space is one of the final components of Hudson River Park — a 6.44-kilometre network of waterfront destinations gradually developed over the past 25 years. And while it provides city dwellers no shortage of sand (1,090 tonnes, to be exact), it also delivers so much more.
Located opposite the Whitney Museum of American Art, Gansevoort Peninsula stands out among Hudson River Park’s two-dozen-plus public spaces in that it is built on solid ground — specifically, on the site of a former sanitation facility — as opposed to on piers. This allowed for unique edge treatments, like the resilient rip-rap beach constructed along the park’s southern border with massive boulders that block the harsh currents created by passing ships.
Drawing directly on feedback gathered during the project’s public consultations, the shoreline also includes a series of tidal pools and a slope designed to assist kayakers looking for an easy launch spot. “In a city with such limited green space,” says project manager Sanjukta Sen, “the list of requests from the community was extensive and varied.” Sen and her team set out to incorporate as many of them as possible.
Those who voiced a desire for a conventional beach experience, for instance, will now find it on the sandy expanse just behind the park’s rocky barrier, where bright blue umbrellas shelter inviting Adirondack chairs. Craving a waterfront picnic instead? Separating the beach from a sizable grassy knoll, a pine-lined boardwalk stretches from the park entry over to its westernmost edge, which hosts custom-designed benches and tables fabricated by Landscape Forms. And at the heart of the park lies one of the community’s most highly requested features: a U13 soccer field.
On the peninsula’s northern edge, Field Operations implemented a salt marsh, along with hardy native grasses and plantings. The team partnered with local non-profit Billion Oyster Project to install reef balls and oyster gabions seeded with 20 million juvenile oysters. The growth of these reefs will not only protect the park from erosion but also restore biodiversity, naturally filter the water and serve as an opportunity to educate the public about the environmental benefits of intertidal ecosystems.
“The combination of visible and not-so-visible elements of resilience is the most exciting aspect of this project,” says Sen. “It might seem novel now, but I hope that, in the future, incorporating ecological services and elements in parks will increasingly become the norm.”
In NYC, a new riverside park by Field Operations balances forward-thinking resilience strategies with thoughtful historical references.