Natural wonder: Pier 26 to showcase Hudson’s ecology

The 97,000-square-foot ecology-themed Pier 26 park will include a marsh, a forest, and an “estuarium” to showcase the Hudson River’s wildlife, in addition to more conventional amenities such as soccer fields.
Olin Studio

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA 

Pier 26 is getting a makeover. After years of planning, Hudson River Park designers have managed to squeeze just about all of the community’s demands into one 97,000-square-foot space.

The pier at North Moore Street in Tribeca, where construction is expected to begin in late summer, will feature extensive deck space and seating, as well as playing fields and educational facilities.

The design emphasizes ecological education. A building on its south side will host two K-through-8th-grade classrooms, three college classrooms, and a technology exhibit. The goal is to create a museum-quality facility with an estuarium — like an aquarium but featuring wildlife native to the brackish waters of estuaries such as the mouth of the Hudson River, where fresh water mixes with the sea — and a space for the community to connect with the mighty river’s marine habitat.

“This is New York City,” said Madelyn Wils, the president and CEO of the Hudson River Park Trust. “There’s a lot of need and little space to fulfill the need. So we put the designers to work and tried to fit as many of those requests onto one pier.”

A “science playground” next to the estuarium building will feature giant, interactive sculptures of two varieties of sturgeon.
Olin Studio

Next to the estuarium building, the park plans to construct a kids’ science playground, featuring giant interactive sculptures of two varieties of sturgeon — an Atlantic and a short-nosed — two endangered fish species native to New York.

On the pier, a pathway will cut through a forested area and lawn before leading to two kid-sized playing fields with a lounge area on the south side. The soccer fields will feature a shock-absorbing plastic grid system. A second lounge deck with tiered seating will lead into a walkway surrounded by a constructed marsh area.

The idea of the pier’s design is to attract wildlife that once frequented the city’s marshy shores — herons, ducks, geese, cormorants, the occasional egret, oysters, mussels, and some 70 types of fish native to the river. The pier’s forested section will feature plants and trees native to the region.

“This whole forest-walk idea was to have trees that were indigenous to this area and to give people a sense that they were walking through something otherworldly that wasn’t Manhattan,” Wils said. “I think this design captures that.”

The renovations will cost $30 million, funded equally between New York City, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and CitiGroup. For the estuarium, to be sited on shore at the foot of the pier, the park has raised $10 million and plans to raise more money prior to its construction.

Marine work on the pier is expected to start this summer. Landscaping will begin in the fall, with construction slated to finish by 2020.

“We’re very, very excited about breaking ground — or breaking water — in late summer on Pier 26,” Wils said. “I think it’s not only going to be a really beautiful and interesting pier, but I think it will be extraordinarily popular.”

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