When the idea of Little Island was first floated in 2014, there was no shortage of criticism to go around. First, for the cost of the project (then estimated to be $170 million) which would pull from both private and public funding but serve only as a “playground for the rich.” Second, for the lack of transparency around its pursuit; the project wasn’t revealed to the public until two years after the design process was initiated.
Fast-forward to 2021, the park-that-almost-wasn't is perhaps NYC’s most anticipated opening. It is also one of the first new parks to open since the pandemic onset.
Funded primarily by the media mogul Barry Diller (also the husband of fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg), the stunning new public space floats above the Hudson River along the West Side Drive.
The 2.4-acre park is the vision of Heatherwick Studio and Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLA) and was designed to resemble a leaf on water. The park is propped above the Hudson River at 13th Street and sits atop an array of 280 undulating piles that emerge from in between leftover Pier 54 woodpiles (preserved to maintain habitats for aquatic life). Above this podium bloom 132 concrete "tulips" that support more than 350 species of flowers, trees (some of which will grow to 60 feet tall) and shrubs, a 687-seat amphitheater (“The Amph”), a central plaza with seating and serving food and beverages (“The Play Ground”), an intimate stage and lawn space (“The Glade”), and dazzling views of New York City and the Hudson.
“I hope Little Island will serve as a whimsical oasis for everyone who visits, a place to wander around and be happily surprised at every turn, to lounge and graze the landscape, and to be entertained, educated, and stimulated by our programming,” said Diller.
Little Island will host its own independent arts programming which will begin this June. Hundreds of local artists and performers have already signed on and most events will be free and suit visitors of all ages.
There will also be no-cost educational programming six days a week that includes creative workshops for all ages led by Little Island teaching artists, weekly programs from the Children’s Museum of Arts and New Victory Education, a Teen Night with The Door, and a Little Library that visits the park on Fridays in partnership with the Free Black Women’s Library, Women in Comics, and Teatro SEA.
The park will be open from 6 AM to 1 AM beginning Friday, May 21. Entrance will be timed for tickets issued between 12 PM and 8 AM.
Little Island launched its online RSVP portal this morning. Be sure to reserve your spot, as tickets are going fast!
- Meatpacking District (Urbanize NYC)