By Brian J Pape, AIA
Cautious optimism filled the air as residents reconvened for the last Gansevoort Peninsula “concept phase” joint meeting of the Community Board 2 (CB2) Parks & Waterfront Committee and the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) at the 75 Morton middle school cafeteria on September 10th.
James Corner Field Operations (JCFO), the lead firm for the consultants, stated in its previous report that the goal is “to access the water, design for resiliency and reinforce the …Estuarine Sanctuary as well as provide recreational amenities that are missing elsewhere” in the park. You may recall that at the last hearing the audience insisted that the full-size field needed to be kept as the preferred option and had handed in petitions with over 2,000 signatures stating to HRPT that a 225’ x 316’ field was the highest priority for this site (JCFO Report).
As James Corner Field Operations began their presentation, once again dazzling with beautiful images, both PowerPoint and printout sheets, they admitted that they were convinced that the full-size field was feasible and necessary, to the cheers of the attendees.
Nevertheless, there were still audience questions:
1. On the south side where the sandbox and ramp were shown, the stone rip-rap slopes were criticized as being the most unfriendly surface imaginable. It was requested that they be replaced with broad steps.
2. Resiliency is still a huge concern as a “Sandy type” flood surge would inundate this beautiful park. JCFO stated that sloping up the edges would create a “bathtub” configuration, so they elected to choose resilient materials throughout that would survive an inundation with little damage.
3. Can there be more rooms built for lockers and classrooms for the many school children that will be using this new park? An HRPT spokesperson said they intended to keep the buildings with a low profile and they couldn’t sacrifice more ground space for buildings. But perhaps stronger foundations could be considered for another floor in the future?
4. The west edge shows existing piling fields, which is an opportunity to capture some of the old pier platforms, but an HRPT spokesperson stated that the park is prohibited from shading any extra surface or disturbing the marine habitat. The protection of habitat explanation seems disingenuous when Pier 55 (Diller Island) is in construction, with a most unusually large landscape rising up to 62 feet in one corner; did that construction not violate the habitat? Of course, it caused a tremendous disturbance. Or perhaps they used up all the extra pier surface allowable for the entire HRPT? In 2011 the NYC Fire Department Marine 1 moved into its award-winning new home on Pier 53 and the HRPT photo shows the pier houses still intact on the west side of Gansevoort Peninsula.
5. Hudson River Park Trust is taking steps to fight plastic pollution and the damage that plastics have on local wildlife and habitat. New drinking fountains will include bottle fillers, recycling bins are being added, they are discontinuing the distribution of single-use water bottles at park events, and they are reducing single-use products and packaging from park vendors through the Green Partnership program.
HRPT stated that the new images would be put on their website, and even though they are indeed there for you, at this writing the site still says the presentation images are from the July meeting. We can now look forward to the next step for this vital community amenity.
Brian J. Pape is a LEED-AP “green” architect consulting in private practice, serves on the Manhattan District 2 Community Board, is co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, and is the WestView News Architecture Editor.