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A Floating Oasis Called “Little Island” Is Coming to NYC’s Waterfront

By Sarah Buder

Nov 19, 2019

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The 2.4-acre landscape known as Little Island is slated to open in the Chelsea Piers section of Hudson River Park in Manhattan in spring 2021.

Courtesy of Little Island

The 2.4-acre landscape known as Little Island is slated to open in the Chelsea Piers section of Hudson River Park in Manhattan in spring 2021.

Situated on the Hudson River along Manhattan’s west side, the 2.4-acre public park is slated to open in spring 2021.

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Tall skyscrapers and crowded streets attract millions of travelers to New York City—last year, a record 65 million tourists visited the city, which is already home to an estimated population of more than 8 million people. Even the most dedicated New Yorkers seek occasional respite from the stimulation, whether by frequenting green spaces within the city’s limits (such as Central Park in Manhattan or Prospect Park in Brooklyn) or by venturing beyond the five boroughs to enjoy quick weekend getaways in more nature-filled areas nearby. When a $250 million public park opens on the Hudson River in Manhattan in spring 2021, the 2.4-acre green space will provide another easy-to-access urban oasis for New Yorkers and visitors alike. 

Dubbed Little Island, the sprawling landscape is designed by New York-based Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects and Heatherwick Studio, the British design firm behind the 150-foot-tall “Vessel” landmark (and Instagram magnet), which debuted earlier this year in the nearby Hudson Yards. The project—currently under construction—will replace the remnants of Hudson River Park’s Pier 54, the site where Titanic survivors arrived to safety by rescue boat after the tragic 1912 disaster. 

Little Island, also known as Pier 55, will stand on 132 tulip-shaped concrete pillars anchored in the Hudson River.

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Recently unveiled design plans for Little Island show that the urban park will stand on 132 tulip-shaped pillars that rise from the Hudson River. The concrete foundations will range from 15 feet to 62 feet in height, creating what the architects describe as “an undulating support structure” for the landscape, which is intended to resemble a leaf floating on water. The park’s rolling hills, tree-lined walking paths, and open lawns will provide visitors with classic views of the Manhattan skyline from a variety of vantage points.

Additionally, a 700-seat amphitheater within the “floating” park oasis will feature a rotating program of live performances and educational workshops throughout the year. Approximately 51 percent of the tickets for these offerings will be free or less than $30 thanks to a lease agreement secured by media mogul Barry Diller, who’s funding the project with fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg through the couple’s Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation.

The Manhattan park plans to incorporate rolling hills, open lawns, and some 100 species of trees and shrubs.

“I can’t wait for New Yorkers and its visitors to cross the bridge, leave the boisterous city behind, and play, lay back, and be stimulated every which way by the Island,” Diller said in a recent statement announcing the park’s official name.

After its slated debut in spring 2021, the public park will remain open throughout the year for visitors to enjoy. While Little Island, also referred to as Pier 55, will be situated just off of West 13th Street in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, the “floating” urban oasis will likely feel worlds away.

>>Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Guide to New York City

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