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Hudson River Park playground makeover nods to neighborhood’s past

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Chelsea Waterside Park’s playground has fun elements that take inspiration from the Hudson River

A play area with water toys. There are trees in the foreground and city buildings in the distance. Photos by Max Guliani, Hudson River Park Trust

There’ve been several additions to New York’s play landscape in 2018, including playgrounds at the recently opened Domino Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 3. And on the Hudson River, a new playground designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh & Associates—the same firm behind Brooklyn Bridge Park—is now open for young New Yorkers to enjoy.

The new Chelsea Waterside Park play area, located within Hudson River Park at 23rd Street and 11th Avenue, has a few nifty elements—the most fun of which is a long, colorful play center shaped like a pipefish, a type of aquatic creature found in the Hudson. That structure, along with a 64-foot long wooden slide, was designed by Danish firm Monstrum, and it’s the first project the firm—known for its quirky, themed playgrounds throughout Europe—has done in the northeast.

The “the history of the park and surrounding neighborhood” provided inspiration for the rest of the playground, according to Van Valkenburgh; two huge cattle heads made of limestone from the nearby Meatpacking District are a nod to the neighborhood’s industrial past. According to the New York Times, they “began life as facade ornaments for the New York Butchers’ Dressed Meat Company”; they’ll be joined by “Art Deco-style winged carvings that once adorned the entrance ramps to the West Side Highway.”

There’s also a new splash pad, new seating, and a huge sand pit.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hudson River Park, and to celebrate, the green space, which stretches for four miles along the west side of Manhattan, has rolled out a number of improvements. This particular playground opened in 2000, but the revamp has been in the works since 2014.

Elsewhere, a rebranding by Pentagram will bring new signs, lighted beacons, and more to the waterfront.

Max Giuliani/Hudson River Park Trust