Kim Mathews’ Cinderella Stories

In a lecture at the National Building Museum (NBM), Kim Mathews, RLA, ASLA, a founding principal of Mathews Nielsen, discussed resiliency and renewal through her firm’s “Cinderella projects.” The lecture was hosted in celebration of National Landscape Architecture Month (NLAM) and as part of NBM’s Smart Growth lecture series.

“Many of our projects are, in fact, true Cinderella stories,” Mathews explained. “They are stories of perseverance, adaptation, and sometimes just plain good luck. They are landscapes that have been working all their life, often forgotten or out of view of the general public, but given the opportunity to be re-imagined.”

The presentation featured five Cinderella stories, all located in New York City riverfronts, and focus on the physical connections to the community. Here are three of the five projects:

Hunts Point Landing

Hunts Point Landing is one of twenty projects in New York City’s South Bronx Greenway master plan initiative. Mathews Nielsen is leading this major, multi-year planning and design effort. The master plan provides practical strategies for greening the Bronx, environmentally and financially. Hunts Points Landing provides new connections to the river for community residents as well as a host of waterfront activities.

Once a fully paved industrial site overlooking the river, Hunts Point Landing was transformed and now offers panoramic views (see image above). “The circulation and topography within the site were calibrated to ensure that a visitor sees the water and is led to the shoreline upon entering the park,” Mathews exlpained.

Leading to the river, the site transitions smoothly between urban and natural environments. At one end of the park, the Hunts Point extension connects to the greenway. There are sidewalks to enter into the park, the fish market, and some parking. The pathway into the park smoothly becomes more densely populated with trees, grasses, and other native plants, leading into the restored shoreline with natural wetland and tidal pools.

Weehawken Waterfront Park

Located just north of the Lincoln Tunnel in Hudson County, New Jersey, this 12-acre park is the new public centerpiece of the Weehawken restored riverfront. Previously, this area was rail yard and industrial park, a gray, desolate piece of the public esplanade around the river.

The township wanted the park to become a living environment that enables active recreation by visitors. It’s a challenge to identify locations for large play fields within waterfront settings, but Mathews explained that “through careful design, we were able to locate the large fields along the water’s edge, while keeping the sweeping views to the river.”

The fields and courts are now embedded within the landscape. Additionally, the park features a rolling terrain with high points, sloping lawns, wildflower meadows, and grassy berms. For many who live in the area, this is the only available place for play.


Shoelace Park Master Plan

In Shoelace Park, the natural line of the river was straightened due to a now inactive roadway, leaving the Bronx River more susceptible to flooding. Also, nearly 40 percent of the park flows through a 100-year flood plain. In this new master plan, the Bronx River, with both soft and armored edges, will now meander through a revitalized Shoelace Park.

Through a public design workshop, the firm and the Bronx River Alliance were able to identify what features were necessary to turn this park into a community landmark. The features desired by the community would then be combined with water management systems. Key components would include a play area, vegetated swales, and a large, 17-foot promenade with a shared pedestrian lane and two bike and skating lanes.


These case studies show how to renew communities with sustainable strategies. “These are urban edges that have come a bit unraveled, but through smart design and perseverance, they have been stitched back together.”

Listen to the full recording and see more images from Mathews’ presentation.

This guest post is by Phil Stamper, ASLA Public Relations and Communications Coordinator

Image credits: (1) Hunts Point Landing / Mathews Nielsen, (2) Weehawken Waterfront Park / Mathews Nielsen, (3) Shoelace Park / Mathews Nielsen

One thought on “Kim Mathews’ Cinderella Stories

  1. Hmmmmm 06/10/2013 / 8:38 am

    I had the chance to attend this lecture. Very nice. It was interesting to see how New York is moving forward and restoring and enhancing waterfronts and other sensitive areas.

    Thanks to the National Building Museum for hosting this. I hope they have other LA events in the future.

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