Signe Nielsen, president of Mathews Nielsen, the landscape architecture firm working with designer Thomas Heatherwick to create the futuristicand controversialPier55 park to perch above the Hudson River revealed new details about the design, along with updated renderings for the park, at a meeting yesterday. Everything is still very much and work-in-progress, and the new renderings were shown to address concerns from the community and provide an update on the materials being considered. The Hudson River Park Trust signed a 20-year lease deal with Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, the billionaire/fashion mogul power couple that is financing the park, and there are currently cranes in the river near the old Pier 54. There has also been federal funding for a 13th Street crosswalk lead to the park. So while approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and State Department regarding the environmental impact awaits, it's time to talk about the actual plants and materials that will make up the park.
Nielson discussed the all parts of the design, from its snaking paths to quickly changing plants, and noted that changes have already been made since the renderings were first revealed. The elevation will be lowered from 70 feet at its highest point to 62 feet, but there will multiple heights throughout, with the corners folding upwards to trap sound and create "micro-climates." She described "snakes and ladder" pathways and said they have been "navigating concerns that we as a team have had about congestion." Asked about crowds leaving the amphitheater after a show, she said there are multiple routes to leave sections of the park.
Greenery that will change color every six weeks is also being considered for the park. Trees will have a soil depth of three feet but the roots will stretch horizontally for storm resistance. Some trees will be 30 to 40 feet tall and required special soil volumes and a crane to hoist them into place. Along with paths and landscaping, there'll be sloping lawns where park-goers can ride sleds above the Hudson in the winter. There's also a proposal for gabion walls (stones held together with wire or rope in a kind of basket) for slope retention and seating, of which there will be multiple types. The type of gate that will close off the park has yet to be chosen.
One serious concern raised during the meeting was the possibility of people jumping off the park. Susanna Aaron, co-chair of Community Board 2's parks and waterfront committee brought up the fact anyone jumping off this park could die. Madelyn Wils, president of the Trust, said, "It's a big issue for us," adding, "even on a lower pier, the likelihood of surviving falling into the Hudson is not great." Shrubbery rims the edge of the park, creating a buffer lined with beach-like fencing at the very edge, and Nielsen remarked that the park is designed to pull one away from the edge. But she conceded that these are the issues that keep her up at night.