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Exploring the Upper West Side's Riverside Park South

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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, Riverside Park South.


[Riverside Park South is a seven phase public park that is being created through private funding. All photos by Nathan Kensinger.]

Riverside Park South offers up one of the Manhattan's best opportunities to consider the city's past as an industrial hub while considering the future of its waterfront.  Situated along a thin strip of shoreline stretching from 72nd street down to 59th street, this 27.5 acre park presents visitors with a series of reminders that this was once a bustling system of piers, docks and freight trains. All of that is gone now. The park is being built as a concession to the city by the private developers of Riverside South, a series of nondescript condo towers looming over this stretch of the Hudson River.

Despite being funded by private money, Riverside Park South is surprisingly creative in its design. Designed by Thomas Balsley Associates, it is being built in seven planned stages. Phase IV was completed in 2008, while Phase V is currently underway. Perhaps because of its multipart construction, the park takes a playful and diverse approach to waterfront access, incorporating piers, bridges, promenades, boardwalks, overlooks, and a boat launch. Even on a rainy evening, it is clear that the park is a popular destination for local residents.  A parade of joggers runs by the ruins of the old wharves, fisherman ply the waters by industrial ruins, and couples hide underneath the new piers jutting out into the Hudson. 

Like many new waterfront park's in NYC, Riverside Park South features a promenade above the water's edge.

Popular with couples and joggers, the promenade pays homage to the area's industrial past. The area was once the rail yards of the Penn Central railroad company.

Throughout the park, unique seating designs have been incorporated. These steel chairs look out onto a series of rotting Hudson River piers.

A jogger finds space to relax along the waterfront after a long run.

In the southernmost section of the park, a winding path leads through a glade of trees and down to the water.

A site-specific exhibition of seven sculptures created by the The Art Students League of New York is currently installed in the park.

The ruins of an old dock are prominently displayed underneath the West Side Highway.

Further north in the park, a narrow boardwalk cuts through an overgrown garden.

The garden is a quiet refuge from nearby car traffic, and from the park's busy bike lane.

North of the garden area are the ruins of the New York Central Railroad 69th St. Transfer Bridge.

The transfer bridge was placed on the national register of historic places by the US Department of Interior in 2003.

A fisherman near the ruins claims to have caught an eel "as big as my leg" at this spot.

The rusty relic is a last reminder of the neighborhood's past as a freight train hub.

At the park's northern edge, a renovated pier offers fishermen a vista onto the Hudson River.

As the skyline of the city is transformed by new glass towers, its waterfront is also being transformed. The elevated section of the West Side Highway may soon be buried underground.

?Nathan Kensinger
· Official website: Riverside Park South [nycgovparks.org]
· Official site: Nathan Kensinger Photography [kensinger.blogspot.com]
· Nathan Kensinger archive [Curbed]