Welcome to Little Island Park — Hudson River’s ‘Floating’ Green Space Set to Open in 2021

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Welcome to the Hudson River’s newest green space, aptly called Little Island Park. The floating park is currently in the works, making the Hudson River at Pier 55 in Manhattan its new home. The two-acre park seeks to bring more green, environmentally-friendly spaces to the urban streets of New York City, thanks to funding from billionaire Barry Diller and his wife, iconic fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

Opening come spring 2021, Little Island Park has been making headlines recently in light of photographs leaking online. After nearly half a decade of conceptualizing the space and jumping over construction hurdles, recent photos finally show the park taking shape.

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{Photo credit: @littleislandnyc}

The Background of Little Island Park

Similar in concept to Randall’s Island Park or Governors Island — local islands surrounding Manhattan featuring prominent green spaces that can be reached by ferry — Little Island Park was first conceived after Superstorm Sandy rocked the Tri-State Area. The original concept, created by English designer Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studios in collaboration with landscape architecture firm MNLA, is meant to simulate the look of “a leaf floating on water,” Time Out reports.

This “leaf floating on water” look is aided by 132 concrete pots, which pile together at different heights to take a shape reminiscent of tulips opening. As the pods travel closer to the water, they slim out, not unlike the stem of a tulip.

little island nyc

Photo: Little Island NYC

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The concept of Little Island Park began to take shape in 2013. In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Manhattan’s Pier 54 was irreparably damaged, and Diller and Von Furstenberg began working with the Hudson River Park Trust to develop a repair and revitalization plan that would bring back the Pier, stronger than ever.

According to the Little Island Park website, “Diller chose to reimagine an entirely new type of public space for New York, one that would create an immersive experience with nature and art.”

Aside from a leaf floating on water, other sources of inspiration for Little Island Park include pop-up children’s books, the land of Oz, and an enchanted forest, Diller said.

little island park 2

{Photo credit: @littleislandnyc}

Heatherwick also said the inspiration was drawn from the destruction Superstorm Sandy left behind — the piles of wood that remained of the original pier.

“My studio and I became interested in the remains of the old piers on the west side of Manhattan, where their top surfaces had long gone, leaving only hundreds of ancient structural wooden piles sticking out of the river,” Heatherwick has said.

According to 6sqft.com, the cost of the park is estimated at $250 million.

What to Expect from Little Island Park

The free to the public “floating” park will include natural, outdoor spaces led by winding pathways that encourage visitors to explore. According to the Little Island Park website:

The park features seating lawns, gentle slopes, winding pathways leading to dazzling views, and a variety of spaces for performances and play as well as rest and relaxation. The undulating topography of this oasis will surprise and inspire visitors with its range of elevations, lush landscaping, and hidden meadows, encouraging visitors to return time and again to explore all that Little Island has to offer.

The green space will also feature a 700-seat amphitheater, which according to the website’s vision and design page, looks like a fully outdoor space punctuated by trees and other vegetation. The amphitheater will lead up to the Southwest Overlook on the island’s right, which marks the park’s highest elevation point at 63 feet high.

An official photo of Little Island Park’s amphitheater has not yet been released and there’s no word yet on if that part of the construction is finished.

Time Out also reports that the plantings at Little Island Park will be extremely diverse in an effort to enhance the island’s biodiversity. {Biodiversity refers to “the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem.”}

Little Island Park’s plantings — which, by the looks of photos, appear to be almost complete — will reportedly include 35 species of trees, 65 species of shrubs, 270 kinds of grasses, perennials, vines, and bulbs.

Little Island Park will also feature a unique entrance experience called the South Bridge. The South Bridge, which runs underneath the park’s concrete pots, will allow guests entrance to the park from the West Side Highway’s esplanade.

Guests will also be able to purchase food and beverage options at Little Island Park’s playground area.

Aside from its unique visual attributes, the ultimate vision for the park is a free-to-the-public gathering space. According to the website, “The park will host an array of arts, educational and community programs, each staged at various points within the site and all throughout the calendar year.”

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What Has Taken So Long

Plans for Little Island Park hit the ground running fast, with Diller originally proposing a version of Little Island Park in 2014, just two years after Superstorm Sandy. However, opponents of the park — namely, New York real estate investor and developer Douglas Durst, the chairman of The Durst Organization, a co-developer of the One World Trade Center Development who funded opposing groups of the project — effectively deaded the park through intense opposition.

In 2017, Diller announced via The New York Times that he had pulled the plug on the project that was once thought to become a waterfront icon and bigger symbol of New York itself, much like The High Line.

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{Photo credit: @littleislandnyc}

But Little Island Park saw the light of day once again when Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped in and committed to complete the park’s then unfinished 25%. Governor Cuomo negotiated a deal between Diller, Durst, and other vocal opponents of the park, which included barring development at the marine estuary and dropping the lawsuit.

The lawsuit in question is one Durst later admitted to secretly funding in order to stop the park from happening. Durst and other opponents blocked the park from happening for three years before Governor Cuomo announced the deal.

Now, that a deal was brokered, lawsuits were dropped, and all that drama was put to rest, it looks like New York City goers will enjoy Little Island Park as soon as spring 2021!

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Stephanie Osmanski writes honest things about health, the planet, and being a woman. Her words have appeared on Business Insider, Parade, Eat This Not That, Dogster, Scary Mommy, Green Matters, Parents, Seventeen, Life & Style, InTouch Weekly, and more. Her articles have been syndicated on World Economic Forum, MSN, MSN UK, and MSN Canada. In her free time, Stephanie and her registered therapy dog, Koda, volunteer at local hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities.