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Exploring the Under-the-Radar Pier 44 Waterfront Garden

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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, Red Hook's private Pier 44 Waterfront Garden.

[The Pier 44 Waterfront Garden in Red Hook is an unmapped park built on private property. All photos by Nathan Kensinger.]

The Pier 44 Waterfront Garden is a Red Hook park that highlights the potential for creative, smaller scale development along New York's waterfront. Funded by local developer Greg O'Connell and opened in 2004, the park is situated on a small strip of private property managed by O'Connell's company, Kings Harbor View Associates. Although open to the public from 8am to 8pm, this unofficial park does not appear on Google Maps or on the 2011 NYC Cycling Map, and has no website. However, it has become a popular destination for both locals and visitors to the neighborhood.

Despite being relatively tiny in size and located at the very edge of Red Hook, the Pier 44 Waterfront Garden is at the center of this neighborhood's eclectic mix of small businesses, arts organizations, and historic structures. The centerpiece of the park is The Waterfront Museum, which is housed on a 1914 barge, and the park also serves as a bridge between two of O'Connell's most popular waterfront tenants: Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies is located at one end of the park, while the Fairway Market of Red Hook is at the other.

Alongside The Waterfront Musem, the park offers up a tidal beach, a boardwalk, a jetty, and a garden designed by Lynden B. Miller, who has created public gardens for The Central Park Zoo, Bryant Park and The New York Botanical Garden. The stated mission of the Pier 44 Waterfront Garden is to create "a place for quiet relaxation" and "an opportunity to learn more about plants, birdlife and the workings of NY Harbor." To that end, many visitors find themselves contemplating its stunning panoramic views of the working waterfront.

The park's waterfront boardwalk leads through a garden to Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie.

Benches along the boardwalk face out onto a view of the New York Bay.

At low tide a beach is revealed under the boardwalk, which includes a boat launch and the remains of an old pier.

New objects constantly wash up onto the beach, including bottles, plastic vials and an old baseball.

A Brooklyn local and his daughter search for driftwood on the beach.

Adjacent to the boardwalk, Lynden B. Miller's garden is dense with late summer foliage.

A grassy seating area is located next to the beach and garden.

The park is meant to be a quiet refuge on the waterfront.

Most visitors sit and contemplate the New York harbor, with its mix of industry and maritime activity.

The park's jetty offers panoramic views out to Staten Island.

The jetty is home to The Waterfront Museum, which is housed on the Lehigh Valley Barge #79.

The museum, founded in 1985, is focused on promoting "our maritime heritage and an understanding of the importance of our water."

As the sun sets, visitors who have arrived for a play onboard the barge explore the jetty.

The Pier 44 Waterfront Garden consistently has one of the best sunset views in New York City.

The sun setting on the Lehigh Valley barge, a timeless view of Red Hook's waterfront.

?Nathan Kensinger
· Public Garden Design: Red Hook [publicgardendesign.com]
· Official site: Nathan Kensinger Photography [kensinger.blogspot.com]
· Nathan Kensinger archive [Curbed]