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Exploring Manhattanville's West Harlem Piers Park

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Welcome back to Camera Obscura, Curbed's series of photo essays by Nathan Kensinger. Every other week, Kensinger will explore one of the city's less-known corners, beginning with the new parks built during the Bloomberg administration. Up now, Manhattanville's West Harlem Piers Park.


[West Harlem Piers Park, located in Manhattanville, officially opened in 2009. All photos by Nathan Kensinger.]

The landscape of Manhattanville is currently undergoing a radical transformation, as Columbia University constructs its campus extension in the heart of this formerly industrial neighborhood. Businesses and streets have been closed down and entire blocks demolished as part of a three-decades-long process. Alongside this ongoing demolition, the neighborhood has also seen the completion of several other projects, including the West Harlem Piers Park.

Officially opened in 2009?after a lengthy construction process?this two-acre park is located on the former site of what guidebooks describe as "a glass-strewn, prostitute-bearing parking lot." Since its opening, it has become a neighborhood fixture, with many visitors even on a rainy weekday. Though small in size, the park includes a fishing pier, a boat dock, a kayak launch, several lawns, and seating areas for contemplating boat traffic on the Hudson River.  Despite an abandoned garbage transfer station next door and commuter trains and car traffic zipping by overhead, the park is a surprisingly peaceful, quiet oasis in a neighborhood which is currently being dominated by demolition.

The park, situated on the shoreline of the Hudson River, is bordered by an overhead Amtrak line and the West Side Highway.

Designed by W Architecture, the park features a system of piers that jut out into the river, including boat docks and a kayak launch.

The piers offer seating and fishing areas, with views of the Hudson River and New Jersey.

The park's fish cleaning station also operates as an impromptu waterpark.

A sudden downpour empties the recreation pier of fisherman and other visitors.

The clearing skies reveal views of the George Washington Bridge.

Scattered throughout the park are several sculptures by New York based artist Nari Ward.

These include "Signage Rail"?a collection of poetic road barriers that remind visitors of the park's history as a parking lot.

Ward's work frames a view of an abandoned marine transfer station, once used by the Sanitation Department to drop garbage into barges on the Hudson River.

Just two blocks away, much of Manhattanville's formerly industrial landscape has also been abandoned and demolished to make way for Columbia University's new campus.

?Nathan Kensinger
· West Harlem Piers Park [NYC Parks]
· Official site: Nathan Kensinger Photography [kensinger.blogspot.com]
· Nathan Kensinger archive [Curbed]

West Harlem Piers Park, New York, NY