It’s been a long time coming, but New York City has been steadily reclaiming its waterfront from an inaccessible, industrialized afterthought to a showplace of outdoor charm. This fall, think about getting outside and wandering around the newest additions, as well as enjoying some venerable emerald-green jewels.
1. Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park
In 2013 the first phase of this park, located on the Queens side of the
East River in the Long Island City neighborhood of Hunter’s Point, began to transform the 30-acre stretch of land. The design—coauthored by the firms Weiss/Manfredi and SWA/ Balsley, with Arup consulting on infrastructure—was a major upgrade from what used to be a rail exchange, adding landscaping and ballfields.
Then came phase two, which opened in early July. The finishing touches recall the site’s preindustrial history, returning one and a half acres to the original wetland state of the space. “For us, the dramatic topography and the irregular water’s edge create a park like no other, with the surprising proximity of recreation and retreat,” says architect Michael Manfredi.
A series of walkways leads up to a 30-foot-high cantilevered promenade offering million-dollar views. “Our personal favorite thing to do in the park is to be able to stand on the cantilevered overlook and watch the sun slowly dip down over the Manhattan skyline,” says architect Marion Weiss. “It’s magical.” You’ll also find a kayak launch, promontory green, and exercise terraces. Best of all: It’s sustainable and relatively hurricane-resistant. (Phase one was in construction during Hurricane Sandy.)
Following the riverfront down to Brooklyn, you’ll find another newcomer, which opened this summer: six-acre waterfront Domino Park, designed by architecture firm James Corner Field Operations (the creative force behind the High Line in Chelsea), on the site of the erstwhile Domino Sugar Refinery. There are playgrounds, a dog run, a taco stand called Tacocina by restaurateur Danny Meyer, bocce and volleyball courts, and salvaged industrial elements from the factory.
2. Riverside Park
From the name, it makes sense that this was probably New York’s first water-focused park. But despite roots dating back to 1875, it wasn’t until parks impresario Robert Moses got ahold of it in the 1930s and ’40s that actual water access was introduced. Now this four-mile- long designated scenic landmark boasts bike paths, playgrounds, outdoor cafés, and the famous 79th St. Boat Basin.
3. Governors Island
Only 800 yards from Manhattan in New York Harbor, this former Army and Coast Guard base opened as a city-run park in 2014. It’s reachable by ferry, and the views are great. You can spend a pleasant afternoon renting a bike for a self-guided tour of the island and checking out the historic buildings, including Castle Williams, a circular fortification built to protect New York just before the War of 1812. (The island closes for the winter on October 31.)
4. Marine Park
Contrary to popular belief, Brooklyn’s largest park is not Prospect. It’s Marine, some 530 acres of grassland and salt marsh that you may notice when flying into or out of JFK Airport. In addition to playgrounds and bike trails on land, Gerritsen Inlet has a launch for canoes and kayaks.
5. Hudson River Park
Perhaps the most impactful change to the waterfront landscape in the past two decades is this long and skinny 550 acres from Battery Park to 59th St. It gets green and filled in all the time, and now has real restaurants added to the skateparks and tennis courts—not to mention the trapeze school where Carrie Bradshaw practiced in Sex and the City.
6. Brooklyn Bridge Park
The great bridge is the main attraction, of course, but this small, perfectly situated park on the Brooklyn side of the bridge has been aggressive about public art installations. And there’s always the kid-friendly ride known as Jane’s Carousel.
—by Ted Loos