HRPT Debuts ‘Beach,’ Park, and Sculpture at Gansevoort Peninsula
Lower Manhattan residents can now walk to the beach: On Monday, the Hudson River Park debuted its reimagined Gansevoort Peninsula, 5.5 acres of waterfront open space, including a sand beach, lawns, a picnic area, sports fields, and much more. Leave your trunks at home, however, because the water is for watching, rather than wading. (Translation: No swimming allowed.)
Located on the waterfront between Gansevoort and Little West 12th Street (opposite the Whitney Museum of American Art), the facility is unlike the other Hudson River Park amenities that extend into the river, because is not a pier, but rather solid ground, with a bit of 19th-century landfill on its northern edge.
The Downtown-facing shoulder of Gansevoort Peninsula offers direct access to the Hudson River for human-powered boats, such as kayaks, along with stunning views of the water and skyline. Other recreational features include an adult fitness area, two dog runs, a ball field, and a new building (slated to open later this fall) with a concession stand and public restrooms.
The beach is comprised of 1,200 tons of sand, and includes beach umbrellas, Adirondack-style chairs, and a misting feature for cooling down or rinsing off sand. A boardwalk with a pine grove invites visitors onto Gansevoort Peninsula from the esplanade that lines West Street, and connects to the new the Western Esplanade, where a vestige of Manhattan’s legacy street grid is now accessible to the public once again. A boulevard known as 13th Avenue once ran from the western edge of the Gansevoort Peninsula as far north as 23rd Street. Most of this part of Manhattan’s shoreline was obliterated by dredging, to allow large vessels to dock along 11th Avenue (now known as West Street) without blocking the shipping channel. For decades, the surviving one-block stretch of Thirteenth Avenue that remained on the Gansevoort Peninsula was blocked from public access, when the site was used as a marine transfer station by the Department of Sanitation. That easement has now been incorporated into Hudson River Park.
On the north side of Gansevoort Peninsula is a salt marsh. Native grasses and plantings, coupled with submerged reefs and an oyster bed seeded with 20 million juvenile oysters, provide habitats for local fauna, improve resiliency, and serve as an educational touchpoint for the public to learn about intertidal ecosystems.
Gansevoort’s stunning aesthetic experience is further enhanced by a new, large-scale public artwork: the Day’s End sculpture by David Hammons (donated by the Whitney), consisting of a stainless-steel frame that duplicates the position and dimensions of the dock shed on the now-demolished Pier 52, which once traced the southern edge of the peninsula.
From the years following the Civil War to the 1950s, this structure was used as a freight-transfer station by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. By the 1970s, it had been abandoned. In 1975, artist Gordon Matta-Clark broke into the building and cut five large holes in its corrugated tin wall, providing a unique vantage point for viewing the sunset over the Hudson River. The artist, who quickly left New York when the police issued a warrant for his arrest, called his creation “Day’s End.” In homage, Mr. Hammons has christened his new piece with the same title.
All of these improvements and amenities (budgeted at $73 million) were made possible by the City’s decision—spurred by a lawsuit filed in the early 2000s by environmental groups—to remove the Department of Sanitation facility that for decades occupied the bulk of Gansevoort Peninsula. Originally used as an incinerator, the hulking building later also served as a parking garage for garbage trucks, and a storage facility for road salt. One other municipal use remains on a sliver of the lot, with no plans to vacate: It serves as the headquarters for the Fire Department’s marine unit.
The Gansevoort Peninsula design is the result of a years-long community engagement process that began in March 2019, between the Hudson River Park Trust and Field Operations landscape architects, in partnership with Community Board 2 and the Hudson River Park’s Advisory Council. A series of public sessions informed the selection of design elements, which aims for a balance between active recreation, environmental features, and spaces for relaxing and lounging.
At Monday’s ribbon cutting, Governor Kathy Hochul said, “this is how we do things in New York. We see beauty and potential, we roll up our sleeves and we get to work. This collaboration between New York City and State will benefit everyone who visits the shore of the Hudson, and it checks a lot of boxes from climate change mitigation to competition on the ball fields, from a stroll with your pup to sitting on the beach.”
Mayor Eric Adams added, “Gansevoort Peninsula is a true green space for the 21st century, incorporating innovative design and helping to prepare the West Side of Manhattan for climate change.”
HRPT president Noreen Doyle said, “twenty-five years ago, Hudson River Park was a big dream, and Gansevoort was an even bigger one. Converting this former Sanitation facility into the sparkling public open space it is today has been a decades-long endeavor. Beyond adding 5.5 new acres of extraordinary park to New York’s open space network, Gansevoort also connects communities to their Hudson River, completing a gap in the Park’s four-mile footprint, and making it infinitely more pleasurable to travel between our surrounding West Side neighborhoods.”