In Long Island City, Queens, Mayor Michael Bloomberg just unveiled the first phase of Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, a 5-acre park in a part of New York City without much green space. While the park is clearly a stunner, it is also highly resilient and designed to adapt to climate change. The park will eventually total 11 acres in a 30-acre development that includes affordable housing, a new school, and retail space. Designed by landscape architects Thomas Balsley Associates and architects Weiss/Manfredi, the park itself, along with the nearby infrastructure and roadways, cost $66 million, which was primarily paid for by the city’s department of housing preservation and development.
Resiliency is integral to the design. According to the designers, “Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park will become a new model of urban ecology and a laboratory for innovative sustainable design. The integrated design weaves together infrastructure, landscape, and architecture to transform this previously underutilized site into new ecological corridors that anticipate the inevitable patterns of flooding and rising water levels along the East River.”
The centerpiece of the new space is a 1.25-acre “recreation oval” with artificial turf designed for sports. Around this shape, there’s natural grass for those who want to lay out and catch some sun. The oval centers a playground, dog run, and urban beach with actual sand.
In a crescent shape at the edge of the oval visitors can find Weiss/Manfredi’s corrugated metal pavilion canopy, which was designed to “evoke the site’s industrial past.” The pavilion, which hosts a cafe, restrooms, and park offices, has achieved net-zero power consumption through the use of 64 solar panels, which meet about 50 percent of the park’s energy needs. The roof is designed so that enough extra panels could be added to meet 100 percent. It also steers runoff to nearby bioswales. Pretty clever.
In contrast to all the curved organic forms with the oval center, crescent pavilion, and blob-shaped dog park, the park’s rain garden is rectilinear, with meandering stepped paths breaking up the grid. The designers write that the garden “revisits the area’s distant past as a wetland ecosystem.” But it also reflects the recent past: Balsley built the garden over old railroad tracks, leaving them exposed in the new landscape.
Hunter’s Point Park is just one piece of a bigger project transforming 30 acres of waterfront, turning a legacy of industrial development into a green magnet. The development will be home to the largest affordable housing development since the 1970s. Out of 5,000 residential units, some 60 percent will be “permanently affordable.” The development also includes a new public school ready to open for this school year.
Image credits: (1-5) Albert Večerka/Esto