Hudson River Park Debuts New Science Playground in Tribeca
The eagerly anticipated Science Playground at Pier 26 in Hudson River Park (near North Moore Street) opened on Tuesday afternoon, as dozens of third-grade students from St. Luke’s School stampeded through the front gate and swarmed a pair of custom-fabricated giant structures in the shapes of endangered species native to the Hudson River—the Atlantic sturgeon and shortnose sturgeon.
The 4,000-square-foot recreational space is meant to blend fun with education, encouraging kids to climb over and inside the much-larger-than-life shapes while exploring fish anatomy, and interacting with marine-oriented features to learn about local wildlife native to the park’s 400-acre estuarine sanctuary.
“The new Science Playground is a place for children and their imaginations and adventures, but it’s also a place for learning about our local habitat,” said Noreen Doyle, president of the Hudson River Park Trust.
The Science Playground broke ground in December 2022 and cost approximately $4 million. This pricetag was covered by a combination of private and public sources. Philanthropist Mike Novogratz donated a $1.3-million match for private donations, while the New York City Council provided $1 million. City Council Member Chris Marte and Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine each allocated discretionary funds for the project.
The pair of sturgeons was conceived by OLIN, whose design for the playground (the fifth within Hudson River Park) also includes a perimeter seat wall, safety surfacing, climbing nets, and a water-misting feature. The space is surrounded by native plants and trees, connecting it to the overall Hudson River Park landscape.
OLIN also designed the adjacent Pier 26, which opened in 2020 and the following year won the Municipal Art Society’s Best Urban Landscape award for incorporating five ecological zones: woodland forest, coastal grassland, maritime scrub, rocky tidal zone, and the Hudson River (which is viewed from a tide deck).
In related news, the Hudson River Park Trust is in the design phase for its long-planned Estuarium, a 10,000-square-foot facility that will function as a combination of laboratory, public exhibit, and learning space designed to offer hands-on programs in the urban ecology of New York Harbor and the larger Hudson River ecosystem. The Estuarium will be located next to the Science Playground. In September 2022, HRPT awarded a $3.4-million contract to the Tribeca-based architectural firm of Sage and Coombe to develop preliminary designs. This is anticipated to be one of the final elements that will complete the original vision of Hudson River Park. The Estuarium was created by marine biologist and Tribeca resident Cathy Drew in the 1980s as a marine science field station. For years, the River Project was housed on Pier 26, but the organization relocated to temporary quarters at Pier 40 when the HRPT began to redevelop the structure in 2008.