Thomas Balsley Associates: Recently opened this summer in a ribbon cutting ceremony with Mayor Bloomberg, Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park is phase one of a larger master plan that encompasses the transformation of 30 acres of post-industrial waterfront on the East River in Long Island City and includes the largest affordable housing building project in New York City since the 1970’s. Surrounded by water on three sides, Hunter’s Point South is a new model of urban ecology and a laboratory for innovative sustainable design. The park and open space is a design collaboration between Thomas Balsley Associates and WEISS/MANFREDI with ARUP as the prime consultant and infrastructure designer.
The site is waterfront and city, gateway and sanctuary, blank slate and pentimento. Design leverages the site’s industrial heritage and spectacular views to establish a resilient, multi-layered recreational and cultural destination. Adjacent to a future school and an emerging residential development of 5,000 permanently affordable units, the park will provide a public front door and new open spaces for recreation that connect to the surrounding communities. The integrated design weaves together infrastructure, landscape, and architecture to transform a post-industrial waterfront site into new ecological corridors that anticipate the inevitable patterns of flooding and rising water levels along the East River, transforming Hunter’s Point South into both a new cultural and ecological paradigm.
Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park has evolved from a marshy wetland to a drained landfill site and from a soft shoreline to an armored water’s edge. The design incorporates numerous green initiatives, transforming a critically located but abandoned waterfront into a new urban ecological paradigm. The essence of the park is a technological and ecological system implemented to minimize non-renewable power consumption, protect and conserve water, optimize maintenance and operational practices, and create a healthy and productive environment for the community and the city.
Embedded in the new urban plan is a carefully conceived sustainable approach to the smart streets, bioswales, and bikeways of the new community at Hunter’s Point South. Placed along the park’s edge, a bioswale filters stormwater from the Center Blvd. and the upland smart streets. Each upland street enjoys the park and skyline views and terminates on park vestibule entrances that have been outfitted with banquette seating.
A new multi-use green oval defines the most generously open part of the site and offers views directly across the river to Manhattan. This green anchors the park’s north precinct and is framed by a continuous path and pleated steel shade canopy on the south side which follows the curve of the oval and offers shelter for a water ferry stop and concession building.
The path that surrounds the central green unfurls into a promenade leading to an overlook at the southern terminus of the site. This overlook, a 30-foot high cantilevered platform with views of the Manhattan skyline and the East River, is at once urbane and otherworldly, bringing the city to a precipice suspended over a new wetland water’s edge. From the central promenade path, existing concrete bulk-heads are strategically replaced by new wetlands and pathways that link the major precincts and programs of the park. This path system extends to the water’s edge and forms part of the “soft” edge infrastructure, while also providing a new landmark and destination that draws the community to the waterfront.
The Pavilion is conceived as a continuous structure which connects the city with the water’s edge. It is strategically located to support the park’s active and passive recreational uses and provides a legible point of arrival and orientation. The Pavilion is divided into two buildings under one continuous canopy. It includes a maintenance and operations facility for the Department of Parks and Recreations, comfort stations, a concession building, and a raised café plaza. The Pavilion culminates at the elevated wood pier, with panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline and the East River corridor.
The folded plate shade structure recalls the maritime history of Hunter’s Point and is optimized to capture storm water and solar power. Sixty-four photovoltaic panels located on the south face of the steel pleats generate 37,000 kWh per year, powering over 50% of the entire park. The design can accommodate additional panels to power 100% of the park in the future. The folded plates also collect stormwater which nourishes nearby bioswales. A richly textured brushed metal surface drapes across the outer edge of the sweep along the Green sweep, and reflects the activity at the Green and the general landscape.
Framed by the pavilion and park path, an urban beach hosts sunning, picnicking, and beach volleyball along the edge of the promenade. Here, visitors will sink their toes in the sand and take in a unique beach sunset setting over the Manhattan skyline.
Framed by the urban dog run and play area at the 51st Avenue vestibule, native grasses envelop freight rails to compose an interpretive rail garden narrative. A cross path weaves through to a small central plaza animated with water jets and the interaction they attract.
As a relatively new component of the 21st century urban park, the dog run has proven its long term social sustainability worth. With its distinctive water rill, stacked timber seats that recall an earlier lumberyard and animated shelter which has taken its cues from the pavilion, this dogscape has elevated the fun of dog ownership.
Resting on a tree shaded shelf above the promenade and surrounded by native grasses, the play area promises to be the center of family activity for the park. Here at the edge of the East River an ensemble of play venues for all ages ranges from basketball and adult fitness to a children’s play with lawn mound and water play channel.
Park Designers: Thomas Balsley Associates / WEISS/MANFREDI
Prime Consultant and Infrastructure Designer: ARUP
Location: Long Island City, New York 11101 / NY / USA
Client: New York City Economic Development Corporation
Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development
Completion: August 2013
Area: Park and green streets (Phase 1): 9.5 acres Pavilion: 12,000 sf