For those who find Little Island to be bigly crowded despite its capacity restrictions, a new expanse of public-private open space similarly extending out and over the Hudson River has debuted on Manhattan’s West Side. Located immediately north of Heatherwick Studio’s artificial island park, the Hudson River Park Trust’s newest patch of open public space encompasses 80,000 square feet of rooftop space atop Chelsea’s historic Pier 57. At just shy of 2 acres, the park–dubbed the Pier 57 “Sky Park”–is the largest stretch of public rooftop parkland in New York City.
“Pier by pier, section by section, we are transforming four miles of Manhattan’s shoreline, and spaces like Pier 57 shape not only the waterfront, but also how people see and experience New York City,” said Hudson River Park Trust president and CEO Noreen Doyle in a statement commemorating yesterday’s ribbon-cutting event at the superlatively large rooftop park. “Today, Pier 57 becomes part of our success story.”
Also present at the opening ceremony were Mayor Eric Adams and New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who referred to the new pier-topping park as “a win-win for New York and a testament to the innovative, sustainable, and inclusive future we’re working to build.”
Supported by three massive, buoyant concrete caissons arranged in a “T” formation in lieu of traditional timber pilings and featuring a concrete-encased “basement” tucked below the waterline, Pier 57 was heralded as a marvel of modern engineering—a “SuperPier”—when it first debuted in December 1954 at the end of West 15th Street along 11th Avenue. Designed by Emil Praeger, an architect and civil engineer best known for his ballparks and bridges, the National Register of Historic Places–listed structure first served as a shipping and cargo storage facility for the Grace Line and later, from 1971 though 2003, as the Hudson Pier Bus Depot for the New York City Transit Authority.
The site was vacated in 2004 and sat largely empty—save for a brief and unfortunate instance of temporary reuse—until a $410 million revitalization scheme for the landmark pier led by the development team of RXR, Youngwoo & Associates, and Baupost Group kicked off several years later under a lease from the Hudson River Park Trust.
Today, the reimagined Pier 57, while still largely under construction, is home to 350,000 square feet of overwater commercial office space for anchor tenant Google along with City Winery’s new flagship 32,000-square-foot tasting room-slash-restaurant-slash-performance venue-slash-production facility. A food hall curated by the James Beard Foundation, a “public living room,” and environmental tech classrooms created by Google for Hudson River Park’s River Project are all slated to open this fall. (Anthony Bourdain was slated to open a larger market hall concept at the redeveloped Pier 57 although those plans ultimately fell through prior to his death in 2018).
As for the newly unveiled Rooftop Park at Pier 57, it will be open to the public daily year-round with initial operating hours from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The space features open lawns, bleacher seating for al fresco performances and screenings (the park will serve as a permanent outdoor venue for the TriBeCa Film Festival beginning this fall), and plenty of space to take in unobstructed views of Lower Manhattan, the Hudson River, and, of course, neighboring Little Island. Additional rooftop features are slated to open this fall along with the previously mentioned forthcoming ground-level attractions and amenities at the 633,000-square-foot pier.
Handel Architects was tapped by the development team to helm the larger transformation of Pier 57 with New York’s !melk leading the design of the new rooftop park. Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) led the design of the Google spaces at Pier 57 as well as the spaces used to enter and exit the park including its public lobbies, stairwells, and elevators. The skylights that prominently appear in the lawn of the new park are also a DS+R design.
The debut of the Pier 57 Sky Park follows last year’s opening of the Hudson River Park Trust’s new $31 million park at Pier 76, which was previously home to a NYPD tow pound. In 2020, a transformed Pier 26 opened in Tribeca.
“Access to open green space is essential for healthy and resilient communities, and I’m thrilled New Yorkers will have access to a new two-acre rooftop park at Pier 57,” added Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine in a statement. “This innovative urban park will serve as a refuge for New Yorkers in need of space and open air year round, and I look forward to seeing more green space created across the city as we recover from this pandemic.”