All photos: Michael Grimm Photography
The offshore public park in the Hudson River that almost didn’t get built officially opens on Friday. Designed by Heatherwick Studio and MNLA, Little Island at Pier 55 is designed to resemble a leaf floating on water, with an undulating base of tulip-shaped concrete pots ranging in elevation from 15 feet to 62 feet. The two-acre park features a 687-seat amphitheater, a plaza with concessions, a small stage, and incredible views, all surrounded by an abundance of greenery.
Thomas Heatherwick’s Heatherwick Studio, the team behind Hudson Yards’ Vessel, created a support structure made up of 280 concrete piles. On top of the piles, there are 132 concrete “tulips,” each with a unique shape and weight capacity to hold the soil, overlooks, and trees.
Engineering firm Arup led the structural development of the pots, each of which is supported by precast concrete columns and pile-driven down as far as 200 feet below water.
Led by Signe Nielsen, principal at MNLA, the landscape design of the park features different landscape typologies at each of the four corners, in addition to rolling hills, walking paths, and lawns. Plantings will change with the seasons, with more than 66,000 bulbs and 114 trees planted so far, according to a press release.
“Every time I come to Little Island, I’m struck by the same sense of wonder. This is an environment made to surprise,” Nielsen said. “I wanted New Yorkers to feel delight and excitement around every turn from the moment they set foot here. When you enter from the concrete of the city, you’re immersed in this living, breathing ecosystem full of unexpected corners, hills and overlooks. I can’t wait to see New Yorkers experience this special place for the very first time.”
Arts and culture programming is set to begin at Little Island in June, including performances from four artists in residence announced earlier this year. The park will host performances and events six days a week, most of which will be free or low-cost.
Some of the already scheduled events include a concert with Broadway Inspirational Voices, a Pride weekend celebration with Tina Landau, a performance from the American Ballet Theater, and more, with additional details expected to be announced at a later date.
Food and beverages, including wine, beer, and cocktails, will be available at stalls located in the park’s “Play Ground,” which has lots of shaded seating.
Billionaire Barry Diller first proposed the futuristic project in 2014. After critics continually blocked the park’s progress with several legal challenges, Diller later pulled the plug on the park. The project was then revived in 2017 after Gov. Andrew Cuomo brokered a deal, which included a pledge from the state to fund the completion of Hudson River Park.
Little Island cost roughly $260 million, funded primarily by Diller and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation. The Hudson River Park Trust is managing the park.
“I hope Little Island will serve as a whimsical oasis for everyone who visits, a place to wander around and be happily surprised at every turn, to lounge and graze the landscape, and to be entertained, educated and stimulated by our programming,” Diller said.
The park will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Timed reservations are required between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. Starting May 21, book a spot online or in person at the park entrance.
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All photos courtesy of Michael Grimm Photography